Optomec Inc, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, has added 7000 series aluminium to its growing list of qualified alloys for use in its LENS metal Directed Energy Deposition (DED) Additive Manufacturing machines.
Manufacturers in many industrial and aerospace segments require 7000 series aluminium, as it possesses the highest strength of all the aluminium series alloys and is commonly used in high-stress parts such as aircraft landing gear components. The new alloy capability is enabled by Optomec’s latest laser optics solution – now standard in all of its LENS machines – that allows the size and profile of the laser-heated region to be remotely adjusted for a particular alloy. This is said to be an industry first.
Different metals and alloys require different sets of process parameters, referred to as process recipes. Depending on the alloy, it can take months of experimentation to optimise a recipe for a new alloy, including powder screening, process development and tuning, samples production, mechanical testing, metallurgical analysis, etc.
In an effort to save time and development cost, Optomec offers qualified process recipes for a wide range of common alloys including basic steels; titanium; Inconel and other superalloys; corrosion-resistant alloys; wear coatings; thermal barrier coatings; thermal-conduction alloys such as copper; and these new aluminium alloys, including 7000 series.
Recipes are available for a range of manufacturing scenarios, including thin-walled, high-resolution and bulk deposit versions as ‘starter recipes’, or it can develop part-specific production recipes for specific end-user geometries upon request. Further, Optomec is developing ‘Print Libraries’ that include build geometry for specific common LENS applications, such as turbine blade repair.
“We can develop new material recipes much faster now,” stated Lucas Brewer, head of Optomec’s Applications Engineering Group in Albuquerque. “Our new deposition head technology is really the key to getting the DED process to print these new alloys in a repeatable way for our production customers. It’s opened up a ton of new applications for Metal Additive Manufacturing.”