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Standardization of 3D Printing

The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT), Aachen, Germany, has received an award for decades of development in the field of Additive Manufacturing: The institute won a competition conducted by ASTM International and is now working on a project towards standardization of machine condition monitoring in laser beam powder bed fusion (LB-PBF). It is focusing on selecting and qualifying imaging sensor technology that can be used to specifically monitor the condition of LB-PBF systems. The institute will derive cost-reducing recommendations for end users from these data.

Monitoring LB-PBF systems plays a very important role in the entire process because the high-precision, wear-sensitive and expensive optics of the corresponding systems place high demands on cleanliness: Very fine metal powder is used, and the optical systems can become contaminated during processing. They must, therefore, be regularly cleaned as a preventive measure. The increasing number of optical systems and the ever-higher laser powers used in LB-PBF have an aggravating effect.

The institute will be working until the end of 2021 on developing guidelines to standardize and simplify the maintenance and servicing of LB-PBF systems. Under current practices, users replace components too early and increase operating costs because both unproductive downtimes and the consumption of spare parts increase.

Fraunhofer ILT is now focusing on selecting and qualifying imaging sensor technology for monitoring highly loaded optical systems of LB-PBF machines. In addition, it is deriving recommendations for end users of the technology. It aims to help end users independently assess the condition of optical systems and plan maintenance cycles by using improved information about the actual condition of the system. These cycles will then no longer be based on subjective perception or experience, but on real data. This means that maintenance is less likely to be carried out too early or too late, but rather closer to the right time. This should significantly reduce costs for the end user.

Data-Based Condition Monitoring as a Decision-Making Best Practice

With the standardization, the Aachen engineers want to enable end users to easily and quickly generate their own database, making it easier for them to correctly classify and interpret the data. The goal is a standardized decision-making best-practice that recommends to the end user when and how to conduct maintenance or calibration. The goal is standardized condition monitoring that reduces the time previously spent on servicing and maintaining optical systems.

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