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Improving Laser Metal Deposition Process Quality

The Laser Metal Deposition (LMD) process is being exploited by more and more applications, especially within the aerospace, space and automotive industry. This is due to its advantages over powder-bed based additive manufacturing (AM) technologies, such as laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF). These advantages are in terms of maximum part size that can be built, building on existing parts, as well as higher built-up rates at lower costs. However, broader industrial applications are still hindered due to issues in respect to part traceability and process stability.

To overcome some of these hurdles is the goal of the BigDataLMD project. Within the project, a new quality assurance tool will be developed for the Siemens IIoT platform MindSphere that will enable the collection and analyses of a multitude of quality relevant data sets. By collecting this data, the understanding of the influences of specific parameters, such as ambient atmosphere, powder properties and process parameters, and its interdependencies, will be analyzed. This will lead to measures to work out how to improve the stability of the LMD process.

To collect all relevant information about the process, additional sensors (e.g., a CLAMIR infrared camera for meltpool monitoring and a stand-off distance sensor) will be implemented in an LMD machine from BeAM at the Fraunhofer IAPT in Hamburg.

One of the challenges of the project is the connection of the machine and sensors into the Siemens MindSphere. This shall allow a better interpretation of the large data sets that will be generated. Therefore, special attention is being paid to the development of suitable edge-gateways that pre-process the quality data in real-time and only store relevant information in the MindSphere.

The consortium has been carefully formed by Fraunhofer IAPT and Siemens Digital Industries with each partner of the consortium bringing in specific expertise that will contribute to the success of the project. The Fraunhofer IAPT has several years of expertise in LMD process and data analysis, while Siemens Digital Industries, as leading company for automation and digitalization, will bring in its expertise in machine controllers and machine connectivity. The companies Precitec, NIT and BeAM will equip the BeAM Modulo 400 LMD machine at the Fraunhofer IAPT with special sensor capabilities that will enhance the data collection capabilities over the current state of the art. Furthermore, MT Aerospace, Safran and Ariane will contribute to the project with their LMD expertise and help to steer the project, so that tangible benefits can be gained by industry. The project is financed by the partners and planned to finish mid of 2023.

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