And there is more good news on the additive manufacturing front. Concept Laser announced it achieved its highest sales and new orders in the company’s history to date. The shift to industrial additive manufacturing (AM) production is stimulating growth.
The machinery and plant manufacturer from Lichtenfels in Germany once again significantly increased sales, the number of manufactured machines and the number of employees.
The increase in sales compared to the previous year is 54%. Whereas in 2014 orders were received for 110 machines, 161 machines were ordered in 2015. By the end of 2015, more than 550 laser melting machines had been installed by Concept Laser around the world.
The path of growth of the technology leader for powder-bed-based laser melting was also reflected in the number of employees, which rose by 67% from 103 (2014) to 172 (2015). At the same time, the positive development in the US market enabled Concept Laser Inc. (Grapevine, Texas, USA) to increase its workforce to 17 employees.
Concept Laser offers a diversified range of products. The Mlab cusing R suits small intricate parts, delivering high surface quality. The M2 cusing, also available as a multilaser version, has been enhanced both externally and “internally” with state-of-the-art machine technology. It also features a fully integrated design, which means that “satellite solutions” are no longer used for laser sources and filter technology. This closed solution is advantageous to the user thanks to the accessibility of system components and a reduced space requirement. In addition, the new M2 cusing also features a new filter concept, with a filter surface five times greater in size. It has increased from a previous 4 m2 to 20 m2.
The new filter module was designed with fixed piping and to be fully integrated into the system. As a result, the filter’s replacement intervals can be reduced considerably, which increases overall system availability. This is especially noticeable when using multilaser technology and from the resulting increase in smoking.
At the beginning of 2015, Concept Laser also enhanced its offering in the large machine segment with the X line 2000R. The X line 1000R (630 x 400 x 500 mm³) was enlarged for laser melting with metals (800 x 400 x 500 mm3). The usable build volume was increased by roughly 27% from 126 l to 160 l.
In addition, the X line 2000R has also been fitted with another laser so that two lasers now each deliver 1,000 watts of power. It is also equipped with a new sieving station: a quiet vibration sieve is used instead of a tumbler sieve. This makes for a more compact design, as the over-sized grain container is smaller and integrated into the sieving station. The dose chamber is completely filled automatically within one cycle. Improved efficiency also results from the two build modules, which are used, leading to higher availability and ultimately shorter downtimes.
In-situ process monitoring has long been one of Concept Laser’s strategic fields of technology. The QM Meltpool 3D tool delivers quality-relevant data for process monitoring and documentation in real time. The system records positional characteristics of the meltpool while the part is being created. This data can be visualized in a three-dimensional map and analyzed by the user. According to the manufacturer, this analytical tool is comparable to the HD resolution of computed tomography (CT).
But the practical benefit of this new feature is not just that it provides an original tool for active quality assurance. During manufacturing, build jobs can be optimized through iterative variation of the parameters. Support structures can be adapted and in particular the upstream part construction can be designed to be more suitable for production. This capability presents new possibilities for material research.