Progress Reported on LPBF Project to Validate Automotive Steel, Digitize Process Chain

July 22, 2020

GKN EOS IDAM metal automotiveFollowing creation of a consortium in 2019 to address limitations, including automation and its high associated costs, in laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) additive manufacturing (AM), progress has been reported. This includes GKN Powder Metallurgy (GKN PM) working to validate use of DP600 automotive steel on a newly acquired EOS M300-4 quad-laser system installed at GKN PM’s Bonn, Germany, facility (pictured).

The consortium of 12 partners from across the AM, automotive, research and industrial sectors launched the Industrialization and Digitalization of Additive Manufacturing (IDAM) project to assist LPBF adoption for industrial, serial production in industries such as automotive.

The goal of IDAM includes using the pilot line at GKN PM’s factory in Bonn, and another at BMW Group’s facility in Munich, to demonstrate a digitalized and IoT-driven production line for 3D printing of automotive components. Using the lines, the IDAM consortium aims to produce more than 10,000 individual and spare parts annually, as well as at least 50,000 mass-produced components. Importantly, the IDAM pilot lines will encompass open architecture that can be adapted for any LPBF system.

Thus far, the gas atomized DP600 material, via the GKN PM-EOS validation process, demonstrates an elongation rate of 13 percent as-built to 22 percent with heat treatment, and a tensile strength of 950 MPa as-built to 700 MPa with heat treatment. These tunable properties make the dual-phase steel a good candidate for several structural automotive applications, as well as for other applications in the industrial market. Further potential to reduce cost per part can be achieved by using water-atomized powders.

The modular approach within IDAM enables the digital connection of other AM technologies within GKN’s portfolio, metal and nonmetal binder jetting, that also can benefit from the consortium’s efforts, according to company officials. GKN PM, they note, acts as a critical bridge between the various IDAM project members, translating process-development concepts from the academic side to application-focused strategies in industry.

GKN PM and BMW also provide insight into the qualification process and support those developing the pilot-line modules.

“We are now halfway through the IDAM roadmap,” says Sebastian Blümer, technology manager of laser AM at GKN Powder Metallurgy, offering an update. “Currently, we are checking the concepts of the pilot-line modules. We are preparing to receive the remaining modules by the beginning of 2021, which will give us about a year to test and qualify them. In other words, the digital architecture is almost finished, and we now are looking to the prototype phase. We are eager to get the pilot-line modules connected with our internal systems to simulate the IDAM workflow.”

Consortium progress so far includes creation of the digitalized AM pilot lines by tackling a range of topics, including pre-printing, printing and post-printing phases. Among the most critical issues addressed at this stage: creation of a digital architecture, including digital standards and an IoT-connected overview of the AM process chain. A digital architecture covering the entire AM process ensures communication between AM process-chain modules and achieving the reliability required for serial production.

One big hurdle: creating a comprehensive solution for various LPBF systems that all vary in their interfaces to the process chain. For its part, GKN PM, on its new EOS AM system, is testing multi-laser exposure strategies and pushing the system’s productivity.
Industry-Related Terms: LASER, Lines, Prototype, Tensile Strength
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: EOS of North America, Inc., GKN Aerospace

Technologies: Additive Manufacturing


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