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New project to enhance LPBF using artificial intelligence

A new research project is looking to further develop laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) using artificial intelligence to further increase its efficiency and cost-effectiveness compared with conventional production methods.

The €6.8 million, three-year InShaPe project began in June and is being coordinated by the Technical University of Munich’s (TUM’s) Professorship of Laser-based Additive Manufacturing, together with nine partners from seven countries.

The overall goal of the project is to further develop and demonstrate an intelligent, innovative LPBF process for application in aerospace, automotive and energy production.

Such industries are seeing increasing demand for lightweight, high-strength metal components. For example, modern gas turbines require extremely stable and at the same time lightweight heat shields. 

LPBF is suited to producing such components due to the complex and weight-saving geometries it enables. The efficiency, cost-effectiveness and sustainability of the process can be improved further however through intelligent, flexible adaptation of the laser spot throughout the build.

This will be achieved in the new project using a high-performance optical module with programmable intensity distribution, as well as AI techniques to determine the optimal beam shape for the target object, determined for example by the material type and geometry. The InShaPe partners will also develop an innovative process monitoring and control system for quality analysis that integrates multispectral imaging – the simultaneous observation of light of different wavelengths – in the work area.

'The combination of these two new technologies enables efficient and advanced exposure strategies so that even the most demanding production of complex special components works right away,' said InShaPe coordinator Professor Katrin Wudy, from the School of Engineering and Design at TUM.

Compared to the current state-of-the-art production methods, such as die casting, the following advantages are being sought after with the new LPBF process: seven-times higher production rate; over 50 per cent lower costs; 60 per cent less energy consumption; and 30 per cent less waste.

The InShaPe partners will therefore be able to further reinforce the competitiveness of additive manufacturing in terms of unit costs, flexibility and production volume. The AI-supported control and operation should also enable non-highly qualified workers to use the new process, helping address the ongoing skill-shortage present in industry.

In the long term, according to the project partners, the successful development and marketing of the InShaPe technologies could help strengthen European manufacturing and assist it to be a leading provider of highly complex parts and new best-in-class standards for digital, resource-efficient and agile laser-based production methods.

The project will conclude in May 2025 and consists of TUM in addition to nine other partners: 

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