Swisslog and Concept Laser Enter Into Strategic Cooperation

 

Lichtenfels (Germany), Friday, 25 November 2016: The technology leader for laser melting with metals, Concept Laser, and Swisslog, a member of the KUKA Group, have entered into a strategic development partnership to deliver an innovative Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) system. This comes as part of the very latest machine technology from Concept Laser, the M LINE FACTORY, and the production scenario of the “AM Factory of Tomorrow” which lies behind it. The collaboration will see Concept Laser become the first manufacturer of machines and installations for 3D metal printing to embrace an automation solution for moving modules between the different machine units and within the production environments.

Swisslog brings its many years of expertise in the automation of material flow and intralogistics to this partnership. As a globally leading provider of flexible robotic and data-driven automated solutions for warehouses and distribution centers. Swisslog’s AGV system is regarded as a key strategic element of the new machine solution, the M LINE FACTORY from Concept Laser. Swisslog’s task is specifically to integrate a driverless transport system with smart software for fleet management and power supply to ensure that modules can be moved between different machine units or within an AM factory.

Example of a Swisslog AGV system, docked on an M LINE FACTORY PCG from Concept Laser. (Photo courtesy of Concept Laser)

Example of a Swisslog AGV system, docked on an M LINE FACTORY PCG from Concept Laser. (Photo courtesy of Concept Laser)

By contrast, Concept Laser is responsible for the set-up on top of the AGV in order to move powder or parts in an autonomous way. In addition, the company from Lichtenfels is also responsible for the docking including the receipt and transfer of the modules. The planned approach pursues two objectives: Firstly, the AGV system should be capable of moving modules between the machine units or within a production environment, and secondly it is all about the intralogistics in the factory for the reliable and automated supply of powder material and preparation. “With this collaboration we see the opportunity to implement our highly efficient automated solutions for smart logistics networks in production,” said Dr. Christian Baur, CEO of Swisslog’s Warehouse and Distribution Solutions division.

Concept Laser is seeking to implement automated solutions as part of the process of manufacturing additive metal parts. Dr. Florian Bechmann, Head of Research & Development at Concept Laser said: “The ambitious concept of the M LINE FACTORY ensures a high level of automation and flexibility in 3D metal printing. The AGV system from Swisslog is the next stage in the development toward consistent automation of the processes embracing the basic idea of “Industry 4.0.”

Smart factory for the 3D laser melting of metals
The background to the demand for automated systems is the separation of production and processing units. The new machine architecture from Concept Laser, the M LINE FACTORY means that it is possible to arrange the units physically separate from each other. This now enables processes that previously had to take place sequentially to run in parallel, which ultimately saves both time and money in the production of additive metal parts.

The latest machine technology from Concept Laser, the M LINE FACTORY, consists of a production unit (M LINE FACTORY PRD) and a processing unit (M LINE FACTORY PCG) which are activated by means of automated guided vehicle systems. (Photo courtesy of Concept Laser)

The latest machine technology from Concept Laser, the M LINE FACTORY, consists of a production unit (M LINE FACTORY PRD) and a processing unit (M LINE FACTORY PCG) which are activated by means of automated guided vehicle systems. (Photo courtesy of Concept Laser)

The production unit, known as the M LINE FACTORY PRD, also includes three separate, independent modules for the powder supply, the part structure and the powder overflow. The modules are moved back and forth within the M LINE FACTORY PRD and the processing unit, the M LINE FACTORY PRD, using a tunnel system. The intention is that in the future the storage of powder or even downstream workstations should also be incorporated in an automated fashion. Such an integrated production scenario, which Concept Laser is presenting with the “AM Factory of Tomorrow,” consistently implements the vision of “Industry 4.0” in respect of the demand for automation.

Production scenario of the “AM Factory of Tomorrow” from Concept Laser in which modules move between the individual production stages automatically. (Photo courtesy of Concept Laser)

Production scenario of the “AM Factory of Tomorrow” from Concept Laser in which modules move between the individual production stages automatically. (Photo courtesy of Concept Laser)

About Swisslog
Swisslog delivers best-in-class automation solutions for forward-thinking health facilities, warehouses and distribution centers. Swisslog offers integrated systems and services from one source – from planning, design and implementation through to service right across the full lifespan of the solutions. The company’s success is supported by 2 500 employees and customers in over fifty countries worldwide. www.swisslog.com

Swisslog is a member of the KUKA Group, a globally leading provider of intelligent automation solutions. www.kuka.com

Contacts:
Swisslog AG
Webereiweg 3
CH-5033 Buchs / AG
Switzerland

Concept Laser GmbH
An der Zeil 8
D-96215 Lichtenfels
Germany
Phone  +49 (0) 9571 / 1679-0
Internet: www.concept-laser.de

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 navigation of the slice segments (also referred to as “islands”) which are processed successively. This patented process ensures a significant reduction in stress 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 fusing 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 fusing 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 or a digital process chain mean 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 65 patents granted today and over 120 patent applications, Frank Herzog and his workforce of around 190 employees continue to champion and develop the LaserCUSING® process. The company caters for the global market for laser fusing 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 components 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 components 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 fusing machines in the world. Around 650 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 & 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, Managing Director of Concept Laser GmbH.Project: “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, Managing Director of Concept Laser GmbH

2015 — Nominated for the German Future Prize – Prize awarded by the German President for technology and innovation Project: “3D printing in commercial aircraft engineering – a manufacturing revolution is taking off” in the shape of Frank Herzog, Managing Director 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

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