KUKA Industries has taken on the role of leading technology company in a consortium of project partners aiming to develop 3D printing capabilities for the automotive and aerospace industries. The development partner, which specializes in joining technology, has been officially involved in the generative manufacture of high-performance lightweight components since February.
Together with renowned project partners such as MTU, Airbus, Daimler, BCT, MBraun, Laserline and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology, KUKA Industries is part of a new project entitled ProLMD from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMMF). Here, the partners are working on system solutions for manufacturing cost-effective, high-performance metallic components for the aerospace and automotive industries using the laser metal deposition (LMD) method.
KUKA Industries develops new laser technologies in Aachen
For several years now, KUKA Industries has been developing innovative solutions for laser-based welding, cutting and cladding procedures at its site in Aachen in close collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology Aachen (ILT). “A wide range of unique special optics, wire and powder feed systems, laser-based process developments and the certified KUKA Industries Laserspy, which is used for monitoring the safety of high-performance laser safety enclosures, were developed in this period,” explains Günter Neumann, Head of the Business Unit Laser Process Solutions at KUKA Industries.
The aim is to manufacture large components such as turbine components more cost-effectively using the LMD method. (Picture source: MTU Aero Engines AG)
Manufacturing in a cost-effective manner by means of laser cladding
KUKA Industries is consolidating these skills for the purposes of the new BMBF project. “Together with our project partners, we are aiming to develop a new system solution that is based on robots,” Neumann adds. The project partners expect the project to achieve the expected results: cost savings of up to 15%. Throughout the project, the project consortium led by KUKA Industries and the ILT will bank firmly on the benefits of directionally independent laser cladding carried out by industrial robots. Christian Goldstein, Director of Process Solutions at KUKA Industries explains, “There are virtually no limits to this process in terms of component size and geometry.” The aim of the project is to apply various materials to complex surfaces, such as curved 3D surfaces, with high build-up rates of 1-2kg/h and the best possible results. By integrating the process chains into the production system, it is possible to ensure a consistent level of data management. As such, the project also takes the conditions relating to the requirements of Industrie 4.0 into account.