Trends and Prospects for e-Manufacturing Using Laser-Sintering in the Automotive Industry 2003-28-0015
Over the last ten years, laser-sintering has matured from a technology for rapid prototyping of plastic models to a family of technologies for fast, flexible and cost-effective production ranging from manufacture of single parts to mass customization, fully automatically and directly from electronic data. The range of applications today is already very broad and includes, for example:
direct production of functional prototypes in plastic or metal materials
direct production of metal tooling for plastic injection moulding, die casting and other applications
direct production of patterns and moulds for a variety of casting techniques (vacuum casting, investment casting, sand casting etc.)
direct production of end-use parts ranging from series quantity one (unique parts) up to tens of thousands of parts.
To cover this wide range of applications, the term e-Manufacturing has been chosen.
Recent innovations relating to laser-sintering machines, materials, accessories and post-processing methods have increased the range of applications by improving the properties of the parts, and at the same time improved the economics by increasing the productivity and simplifying the process chains. This paper summarizes those innovations, presents an overview of the current state of the art with a focus on small- and large-series production, and makes some predictions for further technical and market developments.