News about metal technology on this year’s Formnext was dominated by new announcements of significantly more productive machines from existing L-PBF suppliers as well as several technological innovations of newer OEMs in Binder Jetting, Electron Beam Melting and Directed Energy Deposition.

Insights from Formnext Connect 2020 by Benjamin Haller, Head of Innovation at AMEXCI AB 

1.SLM Solutions breaks new grounds in metal AM 

SLM Solutions, one of the leading suppliers of metal Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) systems from Germany, has launched a ground-breaking new system, the NXG XII 600. With a build envelope of 600mm x 600mm x 600mm and 12 lasers (with 1000W maximum output power each) this will be the most productive systems on the market. According to SLM, this enables build rates of up to 1,000 cm3, making the system over 20 times faster than existing single-laser machines. Further innovations on the machine include an in-house developed variable spot size definition system (made possible through a double lens) as well as an optimized thermal management and gas flow system.

On a similar note, Dutch machine manufacturer Additive Industries has announced that they are working on a larger format of their MetalFab system with a build volume of 600mm x 600mm x 1000mm and ten 1000 watt lasers.

We at AMEXCI believe that such a system will push the boundaries of metal L-PBF systems and enable serial production for a wider range of applications by bringing down cost per part. With investment costs that are expected to be significantly higher than other systems it needs to be proven that the market is ready for such a system.

Click here to find out more about this technology.

2.nLight launches programmable laser for metal AM

Picture from nLight

nLight, an American leader in the development, design and production of innovative laser technologies and products, has launched their new AFX-1000 laser that was purely developed for the metal AM market. The AFX-1000 is the world’s first single-mode fiber laser that can perform the beam shaping function entirely inside the laser. This enables AM machines to change between a single-mode beam and other beam profiles like a ring-shape to stabilize the melt pool, reduce the amount of spatter and to increase the build rates. 

Although the AFX-1000 still needs to be proven for the production of end-use components, this shows that innovation in Laser Powder Bed Fusion continues to happen in different areas and is a major step in increasing the productivity of existing machines. 

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3. VELO3D announces new large-format metal printer Sapphire XC

VELO3D, a Californian supplier of Metal LPBF systems, has announced a larger version of their Sapphire XC metal printer that according to them will increase throughput by 5 times and reduce cost per part up to 75%. The new machine features a build volume of 600mm x 550 mm and 8 lasers at 1000 watt each. The new system will include previous innovations like increased design freedom from their SupportFree process and their Assure quality assurance and control system.

With the announcement of this new system VELO3D has once again proven to be one of the most innovative companies in the industry. It will be interesting to follow ongoing qualification efforts with several suppliers in the aerospace industry and see real applications coming out of this. 

Click here to find out more about this technology.

4.InssTek launches a new DED-system focusing on Research & development of new materials

InssTek MX-LAB system

InssTek, a Korean supplier of Laser Powder Directed Energy Deposition (DED) system, has launched the MX-LAB system. The new system is capable of multi-material printing and is a simple system for an easy entrance of DED. While the build size is limited to 150mm x 150mm x 150mm, their larger machines are capable of producing parts with several meters in size. 

Besides InssTek, Trumpf has presented a newly designed nozzle for their DED-systems that doubles the coating rate by using more powder and increasing the laser power up to 8 kilowatts (find out more here).

While Powder DED still needs some time until it reaches the maturity and widespread adoption of L-PBF, we believe that the higher build rates, the ability to build on existing parts and to combine several materials will further increase the adoption of DED. 

Click here to find out more about this technology.

5.Metal Binder Jetting and Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion picking up with innovation

Besides innovations in L-PBF and DED, we have seen several innovations from technology supplier of other technologies. 

While Swedish Metal Binder Jetting machine supplier Digital Metal already launched a new software upgrade that triples the print speed (find out more here), ExOne presented their new entry-level systems InnoventPro featuring a larger build area, a new print head allowing for triple speed as well as a their patented NanoFuse technology that is expected to improve part quality and simplify sintering (find out more here).

At the same time we continue to see more development on the Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion (EB-PBF) technology. German Electron Beam and Laser specialist Pro-beam, announced that they are working on an EB-PBF system and will thus increase the number of available suppliers for a so far still limited offering. Their new system focuses on productivity and is expected to be twice as fast as existing EB-PBF systems (find out more here).

About Benjamin Haller

Benjamin Haller works as Head of Innovation at AMEXCI. In his daily work he is managing AMEXCI’s educational programs and supports customers develop innovative applications for Additive Manufacturing.