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European consortium to optimise additive production

A consortium of European researchers and companies has developed an integrated software solution as part of a Horizon 2020 project that it says will significantly optimise the design, build, and post-processing stages of additive manufacturing. This will lead to improved capability and efficiency across the entire additive manufacturing chain and a reduction in the time and cost of additive production.

The consortium claims that successful implementation of its EU-funded ‘Encompass’ project will result in an average of: a 43 per cent reduction in design time; a 51 per cent reduction in quality control time; and a 46 per cent reduction in post-processing time for additive manufacturing. In addition, the resulting synergies that the project’s software solution will enable between the steps in the additive process chain will lead to an overall 27 per cent increase in productivity, as well as a 26 per cent reduction in the overall cost of additive production.

While additive manufacturing quality and throughput can be accelerated by increases in machine process speed, automation improvements and the addition of sensing technology, the Encompass project is instead focussing on developing process tools that allow designers to consider an integrated process chain holistically, from component design to build, post-processing and inspection.

These tools make up the consortium's software-based Integrated Design Decision Support (IDDS) system, with which it aims to: provide a user support interface within the CAD environment; provide digital tools for simulating and optimising melt strategies; provide digital tools for simulating post-build material and quality processes; apply monitoring solutions for key variables of the post-LPBF (laser powder bed fusion) processes; and develop a framework for the optimisation of LPBF product and process design. While the solution is initially aimed at LPBF, if successful the techniques will be further developed by the consortium to cover other processes.

Image: The Encompass project

The IDDS solution will be demonstrated at the Encompass team’s booth – F79 in Hall 3 – at Europe’s main additive manufacturing exhibition, Formnext, in Franfurt, Germany from 13-16 November.

The Encompass project will also enable additive manufacturing technology to be adopted more quickly and effectively into industries such as aerospace, where due to an up to 7 per cent reduction in aircraft weight being possible through the use of additively manufactured parts, a saving of up to 886,062 tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere per year could be made due to the resulting reduction in fuel consumption.

According to the consortium, the first applications of the Encompass IDDS system will develop unique know-how based on real-world problems captured by testing the system in multiple sectors including aerospace, tooling, medical devices, propulsion and metrology. In this way the system will be verified and validated to a high standard, providing insights and learnings for wider adoption of both IDDS and LPBF in a multitude of additional sectors.

The Encompass project started in October 2016 and conclude in September 2019. Project partners include: The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, Renishaw, The University of Liverpool, Rolls-Royce, Industria De Turbo Propulsores (ITP), Depuy, ESI Software, Altair, the European Federation for Welding Joining and Cutting (EWF) and Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF).

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