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BLT looks at mass production with large-format printing systems

The company has delivered over 200 large format metal PBF 3D printers to date

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BLT (Bright Laser Technologies), the largest Chinese metal 3D printing company by revenue, has been gaining traction in the global aerospace and other heavy industries, offering advanced printing system development and mass production capabilities. The growing number and diversity of products, coupled with larger sizes and intricate structures, underscore the deepening integration of this technology. According to the company, overseas users, in particular, now view metal additive manufacturing as a routine method for component development and batch production. The demand for mass-production solutions has surged, with numerous users setting up production lines equipped with over 50 large-format printing systems at home and aboard.

Tackling the challenge of mass-producing metal additive manufacturing is a multifaceted endeavor, delving into technical aspects like materials, equipment, processes, and additive manufacturing design. It spans production line administration, product quality control, and safety measures. Leveraging over a decade of expertise in tailored product R&D, BLT has thoroughly understood the aerospace and other heavy industry sectors’ need for large-scale printing systems in metal additive manufacturing batch production. In 2023, BLT has achieved significant strides in advancing metal additive manufacturing machinery.

BLT looks at mass production with over 200 large format metal PBF 3D printing systems delivered to date around the world
BLT-3D printed Intermediate Compressor Case Printed by BLT-S1500 (26 lasers, build dimension: 1500×1500×1200 mm)

In 2023, BLT unveiled several platform-based solutions for large-scale additive manufacturing printing systems. The company introduced the BLT-S615 (with a build volume of 600mm×600mm×1500mm or 650mm×650mm×1300mm, W×D×H) and the BLT-S815 (build volume: 800mm×800mm×1500mm, W×D×H). These innovations aim to cut costs, enhance material versatility, and allow interchangeable use of consumables, powder barrels, and other auxiliary tools. With streamlined site management, users can expect improved process efficiency.

Then BLT introduced the BLT-S1500, an ultra-large format laser machine, which has been validated by engineering applications at the TCT exhibition. The BLT-S1500 boasts a build dimension of 1500×1500×1200 mm (W×D×H) and is equipped with an impressive 26-laser system. In a recent development this November, BLT revealed yet another groundbreaking solution with the BLT-S1300 (26 laser) platform. The BLT-S1300 printing system offers a build dimension of 1300×1300×1400 mm (W×D×H).

Addressing concerns about the quality and stability of parts in multi-laser production, BLT has diligently enhanced optical consistency, splicing accuracy, and splicing stability maintenance, and introduced flow field solutions and lens protection measures. These optimizations ensure that the larger format printing systems accommodating multiple lasers meet stringent forming requirements while delivering consistent and high-quality parts.

A shared powder circulation system

Large-scale printing system typically demands extensive production time, often exceeding ten days or even a month, with a substantial powder requirement. Take the BLT-S800 as an example: for a single pass during production, around 350 kilograms of titanium alloy powder is needed, requiring three hours for manual filling. In contrast, the powder supply module BLT-GF500 achieves a full powder compartment in just 45 minutes. Enhancing production efficiency is crucial, and a well-designed powder circulation system plays a pivotal role. BLT’s large format printing system comes equipped with an integrated automatic powder circulation system, facilitating automatic powder recovery, sieving, supply, and depowdering during the printing process. This closed-loop powder management system not only boosts powder turnover for continuous production but also minimizes spillage, contamination, and other quality risks, ensuring the high quality of the final products.

In addition to the self-circulation of powder in a single machine, BLT provides in-line powder circulation solutions for multiple machines, facilitating “one-to-many” powder circulation within the production line and enhancing overall line productivity.

 

Drawing on over a decade of expertise in producing customized products, BLT’s product line covers the entire manufacturing process—from design and raw materials to production, post-processing, and inspection. The BLT-MES 2.0, an intelligent production line management software accompanying BLT printing systems, represents a masterpiece that integrates accumulated manufacturing experience into a sophisticated intelligent management platform.

BLT-MES 2.0 features an IoT module that gathers data from equipment and various terminals, enabling comprehensive monitoring throughout the production line and ensuring traceability of historical data. The production planning and management function empowers users to control resources and production capacity, enhancing production line efficiency. With the production flow function, complete control over the additive manufacturing process and subsequent stages is achieved, ensuring consistency, efficiency, and accelerated delivery times while minimizing human errors and resource waste. This function truly delivers end-to-end digital manufacturing solutions to customers.

BLT looks at mass production with over 200 large format metal PBF 3D printing systems delivered to date around the world
BLT-MES Interface

During 2023, BLT supported multiple Chinese space programs with comprehensive turnkey solutions for metal additive manufacturing.

In March, Dongfang Space independently developed a supporting gas generator for the “Force-85” 100-ton liquid oxygen kerosene engine, which achieved a successful first test run and assessment. The “Force 85” engine adopts a pin bolt design and is the first 100-ton level liquid oxygen kerosene pin bolt gas generator engine in China. BLT participated in developing the “Force-85” engine and printed multiple key components such as the engine body blank and pin-type gas generator. The quality and performance of these components have a significant impact on the overall performance of the engine. On March 1-2, 2023, Beijing Star Glory Space Technology Co., Ltd. completed two semi-system joint tests of the 100-ton liquid oxygen methane rocket engine “JD-2” in real media. BLT assisted the development team in printing multiple pipeline and turbopump parts for the “JD-2” liquid engine, helping customers reduce costs and increase efficiency.

In July, BLT’s Additive Manufacturing enabled the successful launch of the world’s first liquid oxygen-methane rocket. During its development, the BLT team conducted a comprehensive analysis of the service conditions for several parts, selecting materials such as superalloys and stainless steel to meet the required mechanical properties.

On November 2, Space Honor, a subsidiary of Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology Ltd. (i-Space), achieved a milestone in China’s commercial spaceflight with the successful flight test of the Liquid Oxygen Methane (LOM) Reusable Validation Rocket, codenamed Double Curve II (SQX-2Y). BLT played a crucial role in the production of tees, injectors, and other components for Double Curve II. The injector, featuring dozens of precision-required nozzles, utilized metal 3D printing technology for the integrated manufacturing of nozzles. The resulting parts demonstrated impeccable quality, precision, and performance, meeting the stringent requirements for spaceflight use.

BLT looks at mass production with over 200 large format metal PBF 3D printing systems delivered to date around the world
BLT showecased the Injector at Formnext 2023

In recent years, the aerospace and other heavy industries have seen significant advancements, placing higher demands on the performance and reliability of printing systems. Parts now trend towards larger sizes, intricate structures, and seamless integration of form and function, with a preference for high-strength alloys exhibiting excellent high-temperature performance. Leveraging over a decade of expertise in customized product manufacturing, nearly ten years of honed skills in structural optimization and design, a robust technology R&D matrix, proven technologies, and dependable printing systems, BLT stands poised to offer spaceflight clients a comprehensive industrial solution. This enables them to efficiently conduct small-scale trial production and swiftly manufacture parts. BLT has also introduced a range of printing materials tailored for the aerospace and other heavy industry sectors, supporting every innovative stride in commercial aerospace and other heavy industry breakthroughs.

To date, BLT has delivered more than 200 sets of large-format printing systems, rigorously tested in various aerospace and other heavy industry component engineering applications. BLT’s large-format printing systems and solutions will continue to propel the Aerospace Industry and other heavy industries into the mass-production era!

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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