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1. Installed demonstrator system at Oak Ridge National Laboratories 2. Laser hot wire process head 3. Blown powder process head 4. UTRC demo part
This project aims to develop technology (hardware and software) that will position and allow the additive manufacturing (AM) industrial user base to take full advantage of the lower cost and increased flexibility associated with scalable multi-axis robot systems using directed energy deposition (DED) methods.
There is no commercially available multiplanar CAD to path software tool to enable the manufacturing of Medium Area AM (MAAM) and Big Area AM (BAAM) parts through a single robot, cluster, or system of coordinated multi-axis robots using directed energy deposition (DED) methods with multi-meter, multi-process, multimaterial capabilities.
Printing large complex parts with multi-meter build areas typically requires large, inflexible, expensive 3-axis gantry-based systems. These systems usually incorporate only one deposition modality through a single deposition head resulting in increased processing time as the part size increases. The high costs associated with such large, single head AM equipment drastically shrink the applicability of this technology on a wide array of industry applications.
The objective of this project was to develop technology (hardware and software) enabling the commercialization of a next generation DED metal AM machine. This technology promises to position the AM industrial user base to take full advantage of the lower cost and increased flexibility associated with scalable multi-axis robot systems. The project sought to build on existing alpha generation CAD to path AM robotic software tools by testing and refining the CAD to path tool for a future commercial first release. Basic process testing was planned to help develop a multi-process, multimeter, multi-material prototype production robot-based 3DP system.
The team approach was to construct a demonstration system to test and refine robotic 3DP hardware and software through the printing of team member challenge parts. This effort leveraged existing Wolf Robotics proprietary CAD to part printing tools to enable multi-axis (9 and above), multi-process (laser hot wire and blown powder) printing. Software features developed allowed a CAD model to be broken into sections that could be assigned to different processes, materials, and or robots within a robot cluster as part of a “build strategy” defined for a specific part by the software user. One robot was used for printing on this project; however, the project team investigated multi-robot coordination strategies to serve as a foundation for potential future projects related to multi-robot printing that addresses robot reach and collision avoidance.
This project successfully leveraged expertise to design and manufacture a next generation multi-energy source (laser/hotwire), multi-feedstock, multi-meter scale robotic DED demonstration system. The system was able to successfully print two of the challenge parts to completion. Three materials (410 stainless steel, titanium, and aluminum-bronze) were successfully printed using the hot wire process. It was determined to be more economical to print bulk, coarse features at a significantly higher deposition rate than fine features.
Demonstrated successes through this program contributed to the formation of a new additive manufacturing business unit within Lincoln Electric (titled “Lincoln Electric – Additive Solutions”), parent company of Wolf Robotics, to print medium and large scale metal parts as a service to the industrial supply base. Plans for this new AM service bureau include more than twenty robotic-based DED systems printing complex large-scale metal parts and tools for a wide range of industries. Lincoln attributes early involvement in the America Makes program as influential in its decision to start this business unit.