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AMCM and its custom EOS machines are pushing the limits of metal AM

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While many additive manufacturing hardware suppliers take the approach of developing standardized machines that industrial adopters must conform to, AMCM has taken a different approach, working with clients to develop customized systems that meet their diverse needs. As the company sums it up: “there is no one size fits all”. 

AMCM—part of EOS Group—typically works with existing metal AM systems from EOS, which it modifies and customizes to meet the requirements and specifications of client applications. The modifications it can make are varied and include customized build volumes, bespoke laser and optic solutions (with custom laser wavelengths and/or spot sizes), heating systems and more. For instance, the AMCM M 450-1 and M 450-4 are based on the EOS M 400, however they offer a 25% larger build volume. In some cases, AMCM has also built solutions nearly from scratch based on EOS’ powder bed fusion technology.

AMCM M 450 series
The AMCM M 450-1 and M 450-4 have 25% more build volume compared to EOS M 400.

As the company explains, its process for developing customized systems always starts with the application. “With any new project, we start by reviewing your application,” AMCM writes. “Whether the goal is material development or creating specific parts, it is important that we understand what drives you and what you need.” From there, a set of specifications and requirements are established and AMCM’s engineering team gets to work to determine if and how they can be met, and which EOS platform would be the best fit. Once the plan, timeline and budget have been approved, the AMCM team develops the metal AM solution.

Upping the ante in metal AM

The company has worked with customers in demanding industries like medical and aerospace, as well as in R&D and academia. In some cases, the machines it has developed have set new benchmarks in the metal AM industry.

AMCM M8K 3D printer Ariane Group Rocket
The AMCM M 8K 3D printer was developed to print the combustion chamber for Ariane Group’s Prometheus rocket.

For example, AMCM’s most recent solution is the upcoming AMCM M 8K system, an eight-laser system with a record-breaking build volume of 800 x 800 x 1200 mm. The system was developed specifically to print the combustion chamber for the Ariane Group’s Prometheus rocket engine, which has a maximum diameter of 800 mm, a height surpassing 1000 mm and is made from copper alloy CuCr1Zr.

As one can imagine, a lot went into creating the large-scale metal LPBF system and AMCM faced challenges in its development. As Martin Bullemer, Managing Director at AMCM, explained: “The excellent laser, scanner and optics design with our tried-and-tested beam sources is based on decades of process expertise from EOS. The build volume is four times that of the AMCM M 4K, which also means mass. Therefore, the z-axis of the system must be able to move up to five tons of powder with highest precision. The importance of material supply is often underestimated. For printing up to 1.2 m tall parts with high productivity and quality, powder management is key. Reliably feeding tons of metal powder over several days is no walk in the park. You do not want to interrupt the process in any case.” The AMCM machine, which is expected to print the first combustion chambers for Ariane Group before the end of the year, could also open up new opportunities for rocket engine manufacturing applications more broadly. 

The AMCM M 8K machine is not the only system the company has developed to meet the robust needs of the aerospace industry. The aforementioned AMCM M 4K was developed in cooperation with American aerospace company Launcher, which in 2018 sought a solution capable of printing the combustion chamber for its Launcher E-2 engine in a single piece. At the time, there was no system on the market that could handle either the size of the component (450 x 450 x 1000 mm) or the material (CuCrZr). AMCM therefore set about adapting the EOS M 400 system to meet Launcher’s needs. The development of the AMCM M 4K, which has a build volume of 450 x 450 x 1000 mm, took only nine months, and Launcher went on to win a U.S. Air Force award for the printed copper alloy component.

AMCM Launcher 3D printed component
Detail of the 3D printed combustion chamber for the Launcher E-2 engine.

Precision printing of challenging materials

In the medical sphere, AMCM has played an important role in facilitating the production of tungsten components for CT scanners through a partnership with imaging system specialist Dunlee. The company came to AMCM with a need to 3D print anti-scatter grids (ASG), a critical part of CT scanners that absorb scattered radiation and help enhance image resolution. The parts were to be made from tungsten, a material commonly used for radiation shielding as it has suitable properties (including temperature resistance up to 3422°C, wear resistance and radiation absorption). However, tungsten is a notoriously challenging metal to manufacture, so Dunlee was looking for a solution that not only solved these challenges but could meet requirements in terms of precision and consistency.

AMCM Dunlee Anti-Scatter-Grids
AMCM developed the AMCM M 290-2 FDR for Dunlee.

To address Dunlee’s specific needs, AMCM developed a custom EOS M 290 system, the AMCM M 290-2 FDR, capable of printing at the necessary resolution (the anti-scatter grids require a thickness of just 100 microns and a positional accuracy of 25 microns) and with the reliability needed to scale to 24/7 production. The machine features a dual-laser configuration for productivity, process gas cooling for consistency and fine detail resolution (FDR) printing for resolution. Dunlee reportedly doubled its production of the anti-scatter grids thanks to the custom system.

AMCM very recently sent a system to the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry, England, which will help them to explore applications using traditionally challenging materials, such as copper. The machine in question is the M 290-2 FLX, a machine equipped with dual variable-spot-size nLight AFX-1000 lasers (variable from 85 µm Gaussian to 210 µm donut shape). These lasers will allow MTC researchers to print with a melt pool that is wider, shallower and has a more uniform temperature distribution, which results in faster printing, greater stability and minimized soot and spatter.

Ultimately, AMCM’s ability to modify EOS systems stretches the possibilities of what metal laser powder bed fusion can do, including how big it can print, what materials it can process, and how fast it can produce parts. You can find the full AMCM portfolio here.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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