GE Additive has announced that its first Concept Laser M LINE FACTORY systems will be delivered to customers in Q2 2019. Since GE Additive’s acquisition of Concept Laser in December 2016, the M LINE FACTORY’s design architecture, system and software have undergone extensive review and redesign in line with established GE processes and beta testing with selected customers.
“The positive impact the M LINE FACTORY can have on our customers’ operations and their bottom line is huge. It’s important we provide technologically advanced systems that are reliable and add value to our customers. M LINE FACTORY delivers on those commitments,” stated Jason Oliver, President & CEO, GE Additive.
The M LINE FACTORY is said to automate upstream and downstream stages of the production process and provides interfaces to conventional manufacturing methods in the form of automation, interlinking and digitisation.
Reliability & Repeatability
As Additive Manufacturing transitions from a prototyping to production technology, the demand for machines increases, as does the demand on production floor space and the number of operators required to run production lines. Existing standalone machine solutions are said to limit economical series production. However, GE stated that the M LINE FACTORY’s modular machine architecture is reported to offer outstanding automation and reliability, driving economical, scalable series production on an industrial scale.
Modular architecture with full automation
GE added that during detailed rig testing and lifetime testing, a number of areas were identified for improvement and have since been incorporated into the system:
- Improved in-machine architecture and automation
- Enhanced serviceability, scaleable modular system design and ease of service
- Increased build volume: 500 X 500 platform
- Onboard software system: Modularisied software architecture, superior exposure strategies and real-time, in-situ process monitoring
- Process Control & Thermal Stability. Control key process variables that dictate part quality.
Part production, as well as set-up and the dismantling processes, is said to take place in two independent machine units. The units can be operated separately from one another or combined depending on each customer’s preference. This enables production processes to run in parallel rather than sequentially, which reduces downtime considerably and in turn increasing the availability and output quantity of the process chain.
Laser ‘on’ time is heightened by separating the individual work process and the pre/post processing unit, while maintaining a fully integrated machine design:
- M LINE FACTORY LPS (Laser Processing Station)
- 500 x 500 x 400 mm3 (x,y,z) build envelope (further z-axis increase under development)
- Laser power: 4 x 400 or 4 x 1,000 W
- The unit core comprises of three independent modules; powder module, build module and overflow module – which for the first time can be activated individually – and do not form one continuous unit. These modules are transported automatically via the internal transport system
- Frontload transport system or automated internal transport system
- Increased overlap within the build field improves laser productivity potential
- Flexible configuration allows build and process time to dictate LPS to MHS ratio
- Ease of transport: uniform size and interfaces on all modules
- Maximum footprint efficiency: ability to stack up machines in a series alignment
- M LINE FACTORY MHS (Material Handling Station)
- Processing unit for the pre/post processesing and powder management with an integrated sieving station
- High safety standards
- Full powder and inert gas containment by automated module lidding system
- Contactless powder handling throughout the process
- No manual handling in the process chamber
- Water-flood passivation of filters