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Selective Laser Melting Produces Safer Automotive Components, Minimizes Waste

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NOTTINGHAM, England, Jan. 23, 2017 — Using selective laser melting (SLM), engineers are creating lightweight automotive components that boost vehicle fuel efficiency, cut noise and lessen CO2 emissions.

Engineers at The University of Nottingham in England have developed the new additive manufacturing process as part of the Functional Lattices for Automotive Components (FLAC) project; the aim is to achieve significant weight reductions in new vehicle components.

Nottingham light weight automotive components using new additive manufacturing processes, selective laser melting to boost vehicle fuel efficiency.
This is a triply periodic minimal surface lattice structure, which are a focus of the FLAC project. This type of lattice structure is the type of specimen often use for mechanical testing. The project is testing the strength of specimens like this so that we can then design more sophisticated lattice components. Courtesy of University of Nottingham.

The process uses a 3D Computer Aided Design model to digitally reproduce the vehicle components in a number of layers.

Each layer is sequentially recreated by melting sections of a bed of aluminum alloy powder using a laser beam. Layer by layer, the melted particles fuse and solidify to form novel structures that can be made up from complex lattices to provide a light-weight component.

This is an example of triply periodic minimal surface (TPMS) lattice structures, which are a focus of the FLAC project. These specimens were designed using software being developed during the project. Courtesy of University of Nottingham.

Professor Chris Tuck, project lead and member of the additive manufacturing and 3D printing research group, said "FLAC will benefit UK automotive companies, increasing their competitiveness by allowing them to adopt innovative routes for the design and manufacture of lightweight on-vehicle componentry, with shorter lead times and lower costs than are presently available."

The use of advanced lightweight materials in the project will serve to minimize waste, as only the required material is incorporated into the built component. Possible components include brake calipers, heat sinks for LED headlights and power train sub-systems.

The three-year FLAC project will look at the viability and cost analysis of SLM, along with possible manufacturing routes and supply chain models.
Jan 2017
University of NottinghamResearch & Technologyeducation3Dindustrialselective laser meltinglaserscomponentsLEDsChris TuckFLACTechnology News

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