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additive manufacturing German auto supplier boosts use of 3D printing


3D printing unit in Rheinmetall Automotive’s Neuss, Germany, facility is operated by specialists.


Rheinmetall Turns to SLM A


uto supplier Rheinmetall Automotive (Neckarsulm, Germany) is increasing its use of Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technol-


ogy to create prototype parts and components in short time and in intricate shapes and designs that cannot be achieved through conventional methods. SLM, which began in rudimentary form in 1995 at the Fraunhofer Institute ILT in Aachen, Germany, is an addi- tive manufacturing process that utilizes three-dimensional computer-aided design data as an information source, and energy in the form of a high-power laser beam to create three-dimensional metal parts by fusing layers of aluminum powder. The laser energy is intense enough to permit full melting of the particles to form solid metal.


The extremely fi ne powder is deposited on the build platform of the SLM machine in layers 20–100 µm thick, or half as thin as a sheet of paper. The exposed layers are fused by a high power-density laser beam with hundreds of watts directed in the X and Y directions with two high-frequency scanning mirrors. After one layer has solidifi ed, the process is repeated several thousand times. Once the process is com- pleted, any support structures are removed and the fi nished component is ready for use.


This takes place inside a chamber containing a tightly


controlled atmosphere of inert gas, either argon or nitrogen, at oxygen levels below 500 parts per million. “When we put the fi rst machine into operation in 2012, we had to contend with several malfunctions,” said Frank Junker,


68 — Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing 2017


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