3D Printing Processes

Beam shaping technology could change L-PBF as we know it today

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In a somewhat surprising announcement, Fraunhofer IAPT (Institute for Additive Production Technologies) showed the results of an ongoing project that questions whether the Gaussian laser beam profile is really the most efficient path leading to the planned result in the L-PBF process. In the latest development of beam shaping technology, a laser beam was shown changing its profile to more rapidly produce the 2D layers.

The result shown in the video above was achieved by integrating a ring mode laser from the company nLIGHT / Optoprim Germany GmbH into a conventional L-PBF system and controlling it through the open system architecture of the Materialise Control platform and the Materialise Build Processor software, in order to explore the further potential of quality and productivity.

Beam shaping technology by Fraunhofer IAPT could change L-PBF as we know it today

The collaboration with Materialise and Optoprim is ongoing however the initial results are impressive. In the short video, it is clearly visible how the laser changes its diameter to produce all the different shapes much more rapidly, making it look so much easier and faster to produce a part’s layers. If proven, beam shaping technology could significantly improve L-PBF productivity as well as its precision and scalability. Such apparently simple solutions often turn out to solve some of the most complex issues.

According to Shane Collins, Head of AM Advisory Services at ASTM International, “this technology will create an opportunity to replace all lasers on every installed PBF machine with an F-theta lens. The ROI will be compelling. No more limits on laser power due to keyhole porosity. Nickel alloys will be able to be processed with 700W -800W/2500 mm/sec. Layer times cut in half.”

Fraunhofer IAPT has been researching AM technologies for over 15 years and uses this experience to transfer it to industrial applications. This is achieved by helping to accumulate knowledge along the entire value chain, shape innovation, and gain a competitive advantage.

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