There is a delicate interplay between process flexibility and process robustness. As the flexibility of a manufacturing process increases, the identification and control of the sources of variation become more challenging. The project ProThin investigates the robustness of the Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) process.
On one hand, the industry must utilize flexible manufacturing processes to increase production agility and resilience. On the other hand, to be able to meet stringent customer requirements the industry can only adopt manufacturing methods which are robust and can render predictable product quality.
This project investigates the robustness of the Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) process with a focus on the integrity of thin walls and narrow channels produced with this technology. For parts where the performance is heavily reliant on thin walls (e.g., for heat transfer) and narrow channels (e.g., for fluid transfer) a robust LPBF production that can guarantee fluid tightness, high mechanical strength and dimensional accuracy is critical.
With respect to process flexibility, the LPBF technology offers unique opportunities. With this manufacturing method parts with various designs can be produced simultaneously, with different orientations, and without the need for moulds. In addition, the LPBF technology offers unparalleled possibilities for production of light weight components by enabling fabrication of hollow cavities, thin sections and conformal channels which can be designed to meet customer specific requirements on weight reduction and function.
The project consortium constructs the complete value chain and benefits from collaboration of key national and international companies. Two end-users (i.e. Alfa Laval, Siemens Energy) with a range of products with functions derived from thin walls and narrow channels are present and will set the process requirements.
In addition, the team benefits from the presence of a material provider (i.e. Höganäs) and three important technology providers in the field of process simulation (MSC Software), production systems (SLM Solutions) and post processing (RENA Technologies). Two service providers with expertise in the field of quality assurance (Nikon Metrology) and product design and process simulation (Etteplan) will support the project.
The industrial team will work closely with RISE Research Institutes of Sweden and Chalmers University of Technology. RISE and Chalmers will provide the project with their latest equipment for powder analyses, mechanical testing, AM machinery, monitoring tools, and production related hardware and software. Collectively, the project consortium has access to all equipment, know-how and competence needed to carry-out this project successfully.
Coordinator, project manager