Optomec, a leading global supplier of production grade additive manufacturing systems for 3D printed metals and printed electronics, announced the availability of Smart Additive Manufacturing (SmartAM) technology for use in Hybrid CNC Machine Tools. SmartAM technology provides a closed loop control that monitors and adjusts key process parameters during the build to help ensure metal parts with consistent qualities.
In additive manufacturing 3D metal parts are built-up layer by layer with powdered metal that is melted with a laser. As the build progresses, heat build-up within the part can affect the size of the melt pool which in turn can affect the microstructural properties and dimensional accuracy of the printed metal. For many years Optomec has offered real time process monitoring to control the size of the melt pool in its standalone LENS metal 3D Printers and is now making this same technology available in its LENS Print Engine for integration with CNC mills, lathes, robots, custom gantries, or even laser cutting and welding systems.
SmartAM technology consists of special focusing optics and a melt pool sensor housed within the modular LENS Print Engine deposition head. The sensor monitors the build process and control software automatically adjusts laser power to keep the area of melt pool constant. Studies have demonstrated that this closed loop method is effective in controlling heat input and cooling rate, and thus promotes microstructural uniformity that defines the mechanical properties of the printed metal. Maintaining melt pool size also ensures the geometric and dimensional integrity of the final part. In actual operation SmartAM reduces laser power dramatically from the first layer to the end of the build.