3D Printing ProcessesLFAMStartup and Incubators

TUM start-up, LEAM, uses bundled light for 3D printing

Made possible by high-performance LEDs and the targeted delivery of focused light to the component

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According to the Technical University of Munich (TUM), tech start-up LEAM, which stands for Light Enabled Additive Manufacturing, has improved plastic 3D printing through light alone – made possible by high-performance LEDs and the targeted delivery of focused light to the component. In the future, this new technology is expected to enable companies to print complex structures at an exceptionally high component quality, at a low cost. The company does not sell 3D printers, but rather plans to equip existing systems with its technology.

“The idea has been maturing for me since my Master’s thesis,” said Patrick Consul, CEO and Co-founder of LEAM. “Back then, I was working on sand cores made from high-performance materials for casting applications and wondered whether their possible complex structures could be achieved in other ways.”

In 2020, Patrick Consul met Ting Wang, who had also been researching in this field for years. “It was immediately clear that we had a common basis for an innovative approach. But to achieve our goal, we needed one more person,” said Ting Wang, CTO of LEAM.

TUM start-up, LEAM, uses bundled light for 3D printing - made possible by high-performance LEDs and the targeted delivery of focused light.

This person was Benno Böckl, who was writing his doctoral thesis in automated manufacturing processes for carbon parts before taking on his role as COO at LEAM. “The work is currently on hold. Getting our company up and running demands my full attention, but I’ll get the title!” he said.

Due to the individual layers, which are not always optimally joined together, conventional 3D printers achieve a different component quality than the traditional production methods such as injection molding. LEAM has developed a technology that enables the optimal bonding of individual layers during 3D printing using high-performance plastics – achieving a component quality as high as injection molded parts, for example. This is made possible by high-performance LEDs arranged around the 3D printer’s print head and heating the material in front of the print nozzle.

Such production qualities have been possible for some time with the help of laser systems. However, lasers are expensive and dangerous for personnel, and this is why LEAM relies on focused light instead. The advantages of LEAM’s technology are simple retrofitting of existing printers with light technology, a small size, a high level of occupational safety for machine operators, and a reduction in investment costs for companies – compared to laser technology – of around 90%.

 

TUM start-up, LEAM, uses bundled light for 3D printing - made possible by high-performance LEDs and the targeted delivery of focused light.

The three founders see their technology being used primarily in producing large components with complex structures that are not in demand in large quantities.

LEAM is planning to enter the market in 2025. Currently, a few components are still missing for the production of the retrofit solution. Until then, the company is focused on scaling down the technology – which should enable smaller 3D printers to achieve better results. “The system works, and after years of development, we can now demonstrate this in practice. There is no lack of interest from the industry, as we are solving a costly problem for our customers,” said Patrick Consul.

Research
Composites AM 2024

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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