- The transition to industrial AM series production is stimulating growth
Lichtenfels (Germany), 3/14/2016: Concept Laser remains on a successful track. 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 a whopping 54%. Whereas in 2014 orders were received for 110 machines, 161 machines were ordered in 2015. This equates to a growth in volume of 46% compared to the previous year and so even surpassed the annual plan envisaged by the managers in Lichtenfels. By the end of 2015, more than 550 laser melting machines had been installed by Concept Laser around the world.
Oliver Edelmann, VP Global Sales & Marketing, says: “We are very proud that we have managed to further expand the growth of the previous year. This shows that we continue to follow the right path. But anybody that knows Concept Laser knows that the passion for the technology and the strong drive for innovation will not allow us to rest on our laurels.”
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 (correct as of: 12/31/2015). What was the most successful year in the company’s history anyway culminated with Frank Herzog, Founder and President & CEO of Concept Laser, being nominated for the German Future Prize 2015 and being crowned the “Best CEO in the Additive Manufacturing Industry.”
Wide range of products continues to drive orders and sales
With its diversified range of products, Concept Laser offers the right machine solution for any application. Whether it be the Mlab cusing R for small intricate parts with the highest surface quality or the new M2 cusing, also available as a multilaser version, which 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 now. 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. What was already the world’s largest build envelope of the X line 1000R (630 x 400 x 500 mm³) was enlarged still further for laser melting with metals (800 x 400 x 500 mm3). The usable build volume was therefore increased again by roughly 27% from 126 l to 160 l.
Compared to rival machines, the X line 2000R offers a build volume that is roughly three to four times as big. 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 fully automatically within one cycle. Improved efficiency also results from the two build modules which are used, leading to higher availability and ultimately shorter downtimes.
Pioneering role when it comes to quality assurance/monitoring
In-situ process monitoring has long been one of Concept Laser’s strategic fields of technology. The QM Meltpool 3D tool for process monitoring, which the company developed itself, was only recently presented with the International Additive Manufacturing Award 2016. Concept Laser came out on top against 15 other entries from Germany, Finland, the UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the USA. “The IAMA is welcome recognition for our hard work, but also evidence that we’re on the right track. So the international 3D award makes us extremely proud, and provides ample motivation to continue enthusing the global market with new innovations,” says a gratified Frank Herzog.
QM Meltpool 3D 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. Not least, this presents new possibilities for material research.
Outlook: Ideally equipped to meet the future demands of series production
All the signs are that additive manufacturing is currently undergoing a paradigm shift towards series production on an industrial scale. New, more economical machine concepts are therefore required. The challenges are as follows: digitization, automation and interlinking of the machines through to the creation of a smart factory.
Following the basic idea of Industry 4.0, Concept Laser unveiled an integrated, modular new machine concept entitled “AM Factory of Tomorrow” at Formnext 2015 (Frankfurt, Germany). Oliver Edelmann: “The modular integration of the machine technology into the manufacturing environment is amazing thanks to a radically new approach in the design of process components. Ultimately, this makes faster and more economic industrial production solutions available. All development aspects are going to plan: The new machine design will be commercially available at the end of 2016.”
With the latest machine architecture from Concept Laser, any number of the individual machines can be linked together, thus creating fully automated machine networks that “communicate” with one another and with corresponding peripheral devices. Additive and conventional technologies will also be automated and linked together, in particular in the reworking of the parts that are created. Traditional manufacturing methods will then go hand in hand with additive methods.
The new machine architecture is characterized essentially by decoupling of “pre-production,” “production” and “post-processing.” This includes among other things flexible machine loading and physical separation of the setting-up and disarming processes. The objective of the development was to coordinate the process components in a more targeted way with interfaces and increase the flexibility of the process design to create an integrated approach. This becomes possible thanks to a consistent modular structure of “handling stations” and “build and process units” which, in terms of combination and interlinking, promises considerably greater flexibility and availabilities. Thanks to the new machine architecture, current machine downtimes, resulting from manual processes such as supplying metal powder or reworking the parts, will be reduced to a minimum. This will deliver considerable time and cost savings. But it is not just the interaction between the machines but also the “technological inner workings” of the new machine that display numerous innovations and even world firsts, such as the automatic tool changing system or the new, time-saving coating strategy.
Concept Laser Trade Show Appearances
- AMUG, St. Louis, April 3-7, 2016
- INDUSTRIE, Paris, France, April 4-8, 2016
- Dental Forum, Paris, France, April 7-9, 2016
- IDEM, Singapore, April 8-10, 2016
Concept Laser GmbH
An der Zeil 8
Phone: +49 (0) 9571 / 1679-0
LaserCUSING® background information
Key word: LaserCUSING®
The patented LaserCUSING® process from Concept Laser is used to create high-precision mechanically and thermally resilient metallic components. The term “LaserCUSING®,” coined from the C in Concept Laser and the word FUSING, describes the technology: The fusing process generates components layer by layer using 3D-CAD data.
In this process, fine metal powder is fused locally by a high-energy fiber laser. The material solidifies after cooling. The contour of the component is created by redirecting the laser beam using a mirror redirection unit (scanner). The component is built up layer by layer (with a layer thickness of 15 – 500 μm) by lowering the bottom of the build chamber, applying more powder and then fusing again.
What makes systems from Concept Laser unique is stochastic control of the slice segments (also referred to as “islands”) which are processed successively. This patented process ensures a significant reduction in stresses when manufacturing very large components.
Concept Laser at a glance
Concept Laser GmbH from Lichtenfels, Germany is today, unlike almost any other company, one of the real pioneers and key drivers of powder-bed-based laser melting with metals. The technology driver here is the patented LaserCUSING® process, also referred to as 3D metal printing, which over the course of 15 years has evolved the additive manufacturing of 3D components from a rapid technology to the stage of industrial series production.
When Frank Herzog founded Concept Laser GmbH back in 2000 in Lichtenfels, a metal laser melting machine was an entirely unknown quantity in the market. How is a 3D geometry created from metal powder using a laser? What does 3D printing mean or a digital process chain for the manufacturing of the future?
The answer was industrial machine technology: Concept Laser unveiled the first machine of this type in 2001 at Euromold in Frankfurt. With more than 50 patents granted today and over 100 patent applications, Frank Herzog and his workforce of more than 170 employees continue to champion and develop the LaserCUSING® process. The company caters for the global market for laser melting machines across all different sectors from sites in Germany, the USA and China and through a network of more than 35 distribution and service partners.
Concept Laser’s high quality standards, expertise in processes, applications and materials deliver reliable and cost-effective solutions which prove their effectiveness in everyday production and are primarily aimed at reducing part costs. In addition to commercial aspects, the process offers a large number of other benefits compared to conventional methods of production: The parts are lighter, the designer has new freedoms, the topology and geometry are optimized, additional functions can be integrated, and less raw material is required. What this means is parts that were previously manufactured using machining processes are now being redesigned to fully exploit the new potential offered by additive manufacturing.
Concept Laser offers a range of small machines (50 x 50 x 80 mm3) right through to the machine with the world’s largest build envelope (800 x 400 x 500 mm3). Machines from Concept Laser that are equipped with multilaser technology are among the fastest, safest and highest-quality laser melting machines in the world. More than 550 installed machines and prestigious references and projects of this Franconian “hidden champion” around the globe send out a clear message and symbolize an outstanding technology for the future sealed with the endorsement “Made in Germany”.
For example, today the aerospace industry, automotive industry, medical technology, dental technology, toolmaking and other sectors focus strategically on 3D metal printing as the economical and high-quality production strategy of the future that embraces the notion of “Industry 4.0.”
Prizes and Awards
2001 – Presented with the EuroMold Silver AWARD for the M3 linear LaserCUSING® machine
2008 – Presented with the Bavarian Innovation Prize for the M2 cusing LaserCUSING® machine
2012 – Presented with the EuroMold Bronze AWARD for the X line 1000R LaserCUSING® machine
2014 – BAVARIA’S BEST 50 prize-winner
2014 – Finalist in the “Large Companies” category for the German Industry Innovation Prize in the shape of Frank Herzog, President & CEO of Concept Laser GmbHProject: “The first 3D-printed titanium component on board the A350 XWB”
2015 – The “European CEO of the Year Additive Manufacturing” award was presented to Frank Herzog, President & CEO of Concept Laser GmbH
2015 – Nominated for the German Future Prize – Prize awarded by the German President for technology and innovationProject: “3D printing in commercial aircraft engineering – a manufacturing revolution is taking off” in the shape of Frank Herzog, President & CEO of Concept Laser GmbH
2015 – FOCUS Growth Champion
2016 – Winner of the International Additive Manufacturing Award with the QM Meltpool 3D quality monitoring tool, which was developed in-house
Source: Concept Laser GmbH