Lasea and Aerosint, both based in Liège, Belgium, have been awarded a research grant from the regional government of Wallonia, Belgium, for a two-year, €1 million project on the development of a hybrid Additive Manufacturing system that combines Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) with in-situ laser ablation. Lasea specialises in systems for precision laser micro-machining, while Aerosint is a new start-up developing selective powder deposition technology for AM.
Under the project, Lasea will investigate the powder melting and ablation process conditions, while Aerosint will focus on powder handling and deposition control of the metal powders in the scope of the project. The new, hybrid process is aimed at applications in the watch & jewellery, electronics and medical devices industries.
For these industries, the part surface quality and dimensional tolerances obtained with existing metal AM technologies can be insufficient. Having had multiple requests from its customers to pursue metal AM technology, Lasea stated that it sees a clear advantage in a process that combines the geometrical freedom offered by L-PBF with the fine details and surface finish quality possible using laser ablation.
Axel Kupisiewicz, the company’s founder and CEO, stated, “We always seek synergies with other companies in our market niches and we are convinced that the collaboration with Aerosint will be pleasant and fruitful. At Lasea, we have been developing subtractive laser systems for many years for applications such as cutting, drilling, engraving, marking… based on ablation with ultrashort pulse lasers, a technology in great expansion and for which the advantages have been demonstrated over the past decades.”
“At the same time, we are seeing attraction around laser Additive Manufacturing,” he continued. “As a laser integrator, we are seeing this as an opportunity to enter this domain in an innovative way. Thanks to the collaboration with Aerosint and its innovative powder management system, we are convinced that their approach combined with Lasea know-how on ultrafast laser micro-machining will lead us to promising results.”
Aerosint’s powder recoater is said to offer a number of advantages over the roller or blade recoaters typically used in powder bed AM. The stated advantages primarily concern the material flexibility offered by the recoater, localised deposition of expensive materials and the ability to produce multi-metal components. The reportedly unique powder handling it offers is said to differentiate this research from other projects undertaken in the past on similar topics.
Matthias Hick, co-founder and CTO of Aerosint, commented, “Lasea is a company we look up to in the Liège area. They have been extremely successful in the last couple of years showing double-digit growth year after year. Working on such an innovative process with Lasea is in line with our strategy to demonstrate how selective powder deposition can unlock a range of very unique use cases in AM and beyond. We look forward to supporting Lasea in this project which we are convinced will yield very interesting results.”
If the project results in the development of a hybrid process which is proven to be feasible and commercially viable, further developments will be aimed at building a commercial system.