World's largest SLM facility officially opened

The world’s largest selective laser melting (SLM) facility was officially opened on 1 June as part of a joint research project being carried out by the Aachen Center for 3D printing, the Aachen University of Applied Sciences and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT. The new facility features an XLine 2000R SLM system from Concept Laser and is located in the new Digital Photonic Production industry building on the RWTH Aachen campus.

Grand opening of XLine 2000R by Prof. Dr. Doris Samm, from Aachen University of Applied Sciences; Prof. Dr. Andreas Gebhard from Aachen University of Applied Sciences; and Prof. Dr. Reinhart Poprawe of Fraunhofer ILT (Credit: Fraunhofer ILT)

Some 40 guests from industry and research were invited to attend the official opening.

The three-year 'SLM-XL' research project features more than 15 project partners from several industry sectors and intends to accelerate and optimise the entire manufacturing process chain for large-volume metal components. The new facility’s XLine 2000R SLM system will help achieve this through its extremely large build envelope of 800 x 400 x 500mm³. Both local SMEs and renowned additive manufacturing companies are also collaborating with the University of Aachen and Fraunhofer ILT on the project. 

The new SLM facility is firstly intended to accelerate the production of large-volume functional prototypes in order to significantly shorten long and expensive development processes. The project team then plans to 3D print large-volume tools that are adapted to provide custom functions, that are either impossible or very difficult and expensive to manufacture using conventional processes.

Concept Laser’s new XLine 2000R selective laser melting system plays a pivotal role in the SLM-XL research project

‘The new joint SLM facility offers SMEs the opportunity to implement their own additive projects on an XXL scale using a facility that costs €2 million; a price tag generally too high for any individual company,’ said Sebastian Bremen, team manager of SLM productivity at Fraunhofer ILT. ‘Thanks to the Aachen Center for 3D Printing, SMEs now also have access to a technology that can make them more competitive and innovative. In addition, this unit is another important step towards establishing a joint research group between Fraunhofer ILT and the University of Aachen.’

SLM was the focus of another joint Fraunhofer ILT project with Siemens last year, where it was used to enable faster gas turbine production by speeding up the manufacturing process for turbine vanes slated for the hot gas area of an engine.

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