By Dust and Light

© Photo | Gernot Walter

Everyone agrees: Additive processes such as 3D printing and laser deposition welding are the future of manufacturing. We had a look around to see what this future looks like now.

U.S. President Barack Obama affirmed that 3D printing “has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.” The media are brimming with dreams of 3D printers and decentralized, on-demand production. Opening its doors last year in New York City was a store selling 3D printers for home use. Such devices, however, which enable their users to “print”
Yoda figures at home, are not the subject of this article.

We will be discussing instead the real core of what Obama promised: additive manufacturing of metal components in industrial applications — whether prototypes that are fully ready for use or workpieces in small or long production runs. Here, too, the spirit of optimism is strong.

Prof. Reinhart Poprawe, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, makes the following promise: “Engineers can develop products virtually free of production restrictions and are essentially limited only by their imaginations.”

Dr. Terry Wohlers, publisher of the annual Wohlers Report on additive processes in industry, expressed similar optimism, but more in terms of economics: “A growing number of industries and geographic regions are embracing additive manufacturing. Additive processes have had a tremendous impact on design and production, and this impact will increase in the coming years.”

Read here how light and dust will change the manufacturing of tomorrow.

Additive methods for manufacturing

Two methods: SLM and LMD


Selective laser melting (SLM) involves growing the component in a powder bed, whereas additive laser metal deposition (LMD) involves adding powder into the laser melt pool. Here you can read about the current status of both methods.

LMD at Lufthansa and BMW


Laser metal deposition in industrial production: Lufthansa is introducing it as a method for repairing turbine blades; BMW is using it to manufacture functional prototypes for test vehicles; and developers are already working on mobile solutions. Read…

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