LASIMM project developed a a multi-robot machine enabling the production of large metal components

The resulting machine combines unique Additive Manufacturing and machining capabilities and has shown its ability to produce large metal finished components directly from a CAD drawing, reducing total production time
PORTO SALVO, Portugal - Jan. 15, 2020 - PRLog -- Create a multiple-robot modular 3D metal printer integrating both Additive Manufacturing and machining functions and capable of producing large components directly from a CAD drawing was the challenge that the LASIMM (Large Additive Subtractive Integrated Modular Machine) project partners took head-on. The end result is a fully functional machine that includes advanced software to manage all the complex production process, integrating both Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) technology as well as other advanced manufacturing processes and robotics that allow it to produce metal components up to 5 meters long and 3 meters wide. To assess its feasibility in real-world scenarios, the LASIMM project has tested the production of aluminium and steel components, and also added titanium, bringing this concept one step closer to mainstream use. The test results from partners, including Vestas and Fosters + Partners Ltd., has shown how this technology is fast maturing to address increasingly complex manufacturing scenarios.

Industries face new challenges, among them customization and build-to-order, and manufacturing technologies need to be flexible to meet customer requirements without the need to develop new and expensive customized machines. The modular approach of the machine's system architecture enables flexible reconfiguration of the machine, making it possible to develop and assess several machine concepts. Regardless, no other setup operations will be required apart from those necessary to load and unload the machine at the beginning and at the end of the manufacturing/repair process.

The LASIMM project also evaluated additional features, such as cold-work, metrology and inspection, to be added into the machine. This possibility gives the machine a unique and innovative solution, inexistent so far on hybrid platforms currently available on the market, that is closely aligned with costumers' needs. Moreover, it is expected that the integration of these extra capabilities to the machine, from rolling to peening and in-situ allowing, will allow the production of fully functional parts with superior mechanical properties that, in parallel, lead to major cost and production time savings.

Advanced specifications pave the way for broader applications of Additive Manufacturing

In order to produce large scale engineering structures, the material needs to be deposited at a relatively high rate, with exceptional properties and excellent integrity. To achieve such result, the deposition process selected for the LASIMM machine is based on Wire + Arc Additive Manufacture (WAAM). Another unique feature of the machine is its capability for parallel manufacturing, featuring either multiple deposition heads or concurrent addition and subtraction processes.

This parallel manufacturing process requires that the machine architecture is based on robotics. To ensure that the surface finish and accuracy needed for an engineering component is obtained, a parallel kinematic motion (PKM) robot is employed for the subtractive step. This robot is also used for application of cold work by rolling between passes. This ensures that material properties can outperform those of a forged material. A key part of this project was the development of the ICT infrastructure and toolboxes required to programme and run the machine. The implementation of parallel manufacturing is extremely challenging from a software perspective and will require a strong focus within the project.

It is estimated that it will take up to one year for the industrialization of the project, after which the complete hybrid cell will be ready for commercial distribution. The deliverables include, among other, a modular self-contained platform with TRL (Technology Readiness Level) 6 (on a scale of 1 – 9, with the latter as the highest), based on robotic manipulation for the additive and subtractive. The platform will extend the current build size of complex parts to up to 6m in length and hundreds of kilograms in weight, in aluminium and steel, with excellent mechanical properties that match, or even surpass, equivalent forged alloys. By being modular means that it could be easily scaled or reconfigured to match the precise requirement of the end users such as, to have a higher deposition rate it is possible to have a system with two, three or even more robots carrying out the additive part of the process.

Project partners

There are ten partners engaged on this ambitious project, comprising six companies, including the entire supply chain needed to produce such a machine, two Universities and two research institutes. Project partners include the European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting, BAE Systems (Operations) Ltd., Foster + Partners Limited, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Cranfield University, Global Robots Ltd., Loxin2002, S.L., Helmholtz-Zentrum, Geesthacht Zentrum fur Material – und Kustenforschung GMBH, Delcam Ltd. and Instituto Superior Técnico.

About the European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting

EWF is a pioneer in implementing a harmonized qualification and certification system for joining professionals. Through European projects EWF has been innovating in training methodologies and involved in the development of new technologies and uses for joining. Through its member organisations, EWF has established a firm link to the local industry, providing knowledge and training as well as participating in research initiatives that address the most pressing questions and challenges in the field of joining technologies.

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