This content is submitted by Meltio.
(Image courtesy of Meltio.)
Meltio’s laser metal deposition with wire and/or powder (LMD-WP) is a directed energy deposition (DED) process that leverages the advantages of both wire-DED and powder-DED. This disruptive technology can produce small to large scale components with low Buy-to-Fly (B:F) ratios at high deposition rates, low costs and with reductions in lead times.
“There is no doubt that metal additive manufacturing (AM) has come a long way, but the ability to print using metal wire and metal powder independently or simultaneously on our single laser head, without a nozzle change, is a first-of-a-kind feature in the AM industry,” explains Dr. Yash Bandari, product manager at Meltio.
The LMD-WP process uses multiple fiber-coupled diode laser sources that are distributed evenly around the central axis of the head, which frees up the central path for solid filler material and allows for the unidirectional processing of common welding wires. Furthermore, powder is injected through three off-axis powder nozzles that are also distributed evenly around the central axis of the head (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Meltio’s patented multi-mode laser head. (Image courtesy of Meltio.)
Meltio’s main product portfolio includes its M450 metal printer and Meltio engine modules. The M450 is a small-footprint industrial metal 3D printer. It is ideal for the office and laboratory environments thanks to its clean and safe process. Despite its highly compact size, the printer features an impressive 150 x 200 x 450 mm3 build envelope and incorporates a controlled atmosphere for production of parts containing reactive metals.
These systems also feature “active process control” that automatically sets the nozzle to part distance for each layer, and manages process parameters throughout the fabrication process on sensor feedback. Any material that is available in the form of a welding wire or powder can be used; steel, nickel, titanium, aluminum and copper alloys have all been successfully demonstrated so far. The end products are being validated within the aerospace, automotive, oil and gas and medical sectors for various applications.
Meltio’s other product is ‘Engine,’ which is a sophisticated and powerful device that enables 3D printing of full density metal parts when retrofitted with CNC machines, robots and gantry systems (Figure 2). This allows production of large components with complex geometries in multiple axes, as well as hybrid manufacturing.
“Hybrid manufacturing is a one-stop solution for part building. It combines both additive and subtractive operations on one common platform, thereby reducing the overall cost and time for fabricating components,” explains Brian Matthews, chief technology officer at Meltio. Meltio’s Engine comes with a patented laser head which is more industrial and has more features compared to the laser head on the M450 printer. Not only can it apply both wire and powder, but it can print parts with higher deposition rates, thanks to high laser power options.
Figure 2. Meltio’s Engine module integration. Engine integrated with a robotic arm (top) and Engine integrated with a CNC machine. (Image courtesy of Meltio.)
Meltio’s Engine provides a low-cost entry to large scale additive manufacturing. The cost of both the equipment and the spare parts is substantially lower when compared to competing technologies. Since the Engine can be used to retrofit current CNC machines, robots and gantry systems, it is highly flexible and versatile. The highly compact dimensions of the Engine are 550 x 550 x 1200 mm3, which ensures seamless integration, without the typical hassle of common and bulky industrial hardware.
The specially designed deposition nozzle facilitates optimized argon diffusion over the melt pool, substantially reducing oxidation and enabling 3D printing of reactive metals in an open atmosphere environment. The Engine enables not only metal 3D printing of full density parts, but also an all-in-one additive manufacturing solution for repairing parts, laser cladding, laser welding (autogenous and with filler), laser cutting, laser texturing and polishing.
The Engine features a powerful on-board computer with integrated touchscreen and a feature-rich GUI with advanced custom designed software to allow easy access to process parameters. The Engine can also be controlled via a tablet or computer through a local wireless network or via an Ethernet connection.
Meltio’s LMD-WP technology can be used to create components from scratch, for rapid prototyping, part repair or the creation of components in any type of industry that uses metal components without size limitations. Meltio’s Engine, when integrated to an existing CNC machine, robotic system or gantry system, can be used to fabricate large scale metal components. Its versatility and pricing could encourage the expansion of many companies into the metal 3D printing space in the near future.
To learn more about Meltio’s LMD-WP and Engine, check out the product launch on November 23, 2020.
About the Author
Dr. Yash Bandari works at MELTIO as a Product Manager in the Additive Manufacturing (AM) group. Yash has 10 years of experience in directed energy deposition (DED) processes, having worked on arc-DED, electron-beam DED, laser-wire DED and laser-powder DED. His current work at MELTIO involves overseeing the R&D, special AM projects and business development. He received his Ph.D. in manufacturing engineering from Cranfield University, UK where he conducted research for companies including Lockheed Martin UK, United Technologies Research Center and Technip FMC. He also gained experience working for TATA Motors Limited in India as a technical manager in the AM department, and at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) and EWI as a subject matter expert (SME). He holds two provisional patents in his name, and has published several articles, chaired various conferences and given numerous talks on AM. He is an editorial board member of the ASTM journal Smart and Sustainable Manufacturing and actively participates in ASTM F42 committee and ASM International.