Roush—the Michigan-based product developer—is the first service supplier in North America to install the Concept Laser Xline 2000R, the largest powderbed metal additive manufacturing system of its kind.
The acquisition of the Xline 2000R aligns with the company’s endeavor to expand its additive manufacturing capabilities to accommodate multiple industries, including aerospace, automotive, defense, energy, entertainment, medical, and consumer products.
The Xline 2000R from Concept Laser has a build envelope of 800 x 400 x 500 mm for large-scale production.
Larger build platforms bring two major types of benefits. The first, is that additive systems with large build platforms can produce larger parts, such as structural components or engine combustion and propulsion components. These parts can then be redesigned without conventional production design restrictions. This allows for a various design benefits such as lightweighting or combining of parts for a myriad of reasons.
For example, printing an engine block with an incorporated heat exchanger could save welding and post processing costs than if they were printed separately. These “design for additive” strategies, depending on application, can also contribute to increased component reliability and ease of maintenance or repair.
Secondly, with a largest build platform, manufacturers can also print large amount of small parts.
“The Concept Laser Xline 2000R is really built for production and it has a consistent through put, it has two modules that actually rotate 180 degrees. So when you're done printing, it turns around. You can immediately start another print while you are pulling the previous print out and removing the powder and starting post processing. The big envelope definitely opens up a lot of doors for larger components but also we can print many small components at a higher volume than other pieces of equipment,” said Brandi Badami, business development manager for additive manufacturing at Roush.
The machine’s rotating platform allows two build modules to be used reciprocally. For example, a technician can be starting a build immediately after completing a previous build. While the first build is being unpacked (of excess powder debris) or vacuumed out, the second build is uninterrupted, removing what was previously a 10 to 15 minute period of build downtime.
Acquiring the Xline 2000R printer was almost a year-long affair. Representatives from Roush spent approximately nine months in Germany with teams from Concept Laser and GE Additive (which acquired Concept Laser in 2016) for testing and development. These “factory acceptance tasks” were performed to achieve specific baseline mechanical properties of the Xline 2000R.
Once the Xline 2000R was delivered to Roush in Michigan, it needed to achieve the same properties produced in Germany.
“We have very specific mechanical and performance properties that we have to hit in order to satisfy our aerospace customer. We're running a lot those same test builds we ran in Germany, but this time in-house, just to make sure that the parameters are working the same. Our team is also getting used to the build set up. We are just now starting within the next week or two to start some of our in-house programs, which includes an aerospace program,” said Badami.
One of Roush’s aerospace projects includes additively manufacturing engine components for an undisclosed aerospace cryogenic propulsion system.
“During the past year, Roush has invested millions of dollars in new additive manufacturing equipment to expand our reach into more industries,” said Dean Massab, executive vice president of business development for Roush.
These investments include Roush’s software, testing services, machining capabilities, and—notably—their advanced materials, which they have been investing in for the past couple of years to cater to the aerospace industry. These materials include production-grade thermoplastics, carbon fiber-filled nylon material, and Ultem materials which have high heat and chemical resistance, and certifications in flame, smoke, and toxicity.
The company’s services that support additive manufacturing capabilities include 3D scanning; metallurgical testing and inspection; machining, fabrication and assembly; and full-spectrum design engineering. Increasing these additive manufacturing capabilities and topology optimization technologies complement other Roush offerings, such as performance testing, product design and advanced engineering.
According to Badami, Roush’s additive manufacturing work also extends to prototyping and sacrificial tooling for manufacturing with composites. Through the use of fused deposition modeling technology, Roush can create inexpensive, lightweight fixtures and jigs to support aerospace customers. This allows for composite parts to have exotic geometries that cannot be manufactured by traditional means.
“What is unique to Roush to as a service provider is that we can really take something from sketch to full scale production all in house. We do have a lot of aerospace customers that are coming to us saying, ‘We need to take 30 percent of the weight out of this component. How do we do it?’ We know that additive manufacturing is the best way," said Badami. “We can work with their engineers, redesign components for additive, run the prototyping in-house, speed up the product development, and then we can go ahead with full scale manufacture, finish, and inspection.”Continue reading »