Close

Search

Search Menu
Photonics Media Photonics Buyers' Guide Photonics EDU Photonics Spectra BioPhotonics EuroPhotonics Industrial Photonics Photonics Showcase Photonics ProdSpec Photonics Handbook
More News
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
2016 Photonics Buyers' Guide Clearance! – Use Coupon Code FC16 to save 60%!
share
Email Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Comments

Laser Prototyping Advancing to Factory Floor

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2001
Hank Hogan

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Researcher John DuPont, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Lehigh University, thinks the manufacturing sector needs to lighten up. He is collaborating with Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., to bring the Laser Engineered Net Shaping system to the factory floor. The ultimate goal is a device that converts computer-created drawings of three-dimensional objects into reality with metallic powder and light.

The system uses a precisely controlled positioning table that moves in 1/10,000-in. increments in the X and Y directions. It incorporates an Nd:YAG laser operating at 1064 nm and four nozzles that feed metal powder from separate hoppers. A substrate is placed on the table, the laser fires and the nozzles deposit powder. The laser melts the metal, creating a thin layer.

By controlling the feed rate of the metallic powder, the motion of the table, the power of the laser and other parameters, the system constructs the 3-D metallic objects from the computer drawings, layer by layer. It can create objects that currently cannot be machined, including ones of layered materials that blend smoothly from one metal to another, such as tool steel to copper. The system may find applications in prototyping and in limited-run manufacturing.

Small-scale manufacturing


Laser heating itself offers material benefits. "You get very high temperature gradients during the deposition, and that leads to very high cooling rates," DuPont said. "The high cooling rates, in turn, give you very unique microstructures that give you better properties."

Under development for years at Sandia, the Laser Engineered Net Shaping system is now commercially available from an Albuquerque company, Optomec. The system has been used for some small-scale production, but the parameters to reliably and controllably convert an image to reality have not yet been optimized to make the system suitable for widespread use. Rapid heating and cooling, for example, lead to undesirable stress in the created objects.

Under development for years at Sandia, the Laser Engineered Net Shaping system is now commercially available from an Albuquerque company, Optomec. The system has been used for some small-scale production, but the parameters to reliably and controllably convert an image to reality have not yet been optimized to make the system suitable for widespread use. Rapid heating and cooling, for example, lead to undesirable stress in the created objects.


Comments
Terms & Conditions Privacy Policy About Us Contact Us
back to top

Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn YouTube RSS
©2016 Photonics Media
x Subscribe to Photonics Spectra magazine - FREE!