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Optomec Announces SmartAM Process Control for Modular LENS Metal Print Engine

Additive Manufacturing

Closed loop feedback is said to ensure higher quality parts in a hybrid CNC machine tool

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.–Optomec, a global supplier of production grade additive manufacturing systems for 3D printed metals and printed electronics, recently announced the availability of Smart Additive Manufacturing (SmartAM™) technology for use in hybrid CNC machine tools. SmartAM technology provides a closed loop control that monitors and adjusts key process parameters during the build to help ensure metal parts with consistent qualities.

In additive manufacturing, 3D metal parts are built up layer by layer with powdered metal that is melted with a laser. As the build progresses, heat build-up in the part can affect the size of the melt pool, which, in turn, can affect the microstructural properties and dimensional accuracy of the printed metal. For many years, Optomec has offered real time process monitoring to control the size of the melt pool in its standalone LENS metal 3D Printers, and is now making this same technology available in its LENS Print Engine for integration with CNC mills, lathes, robots, custom gantries, or even laser cutting and welding systems.

Optomec is a privately held, rapidly growing supplier of additive manufacturing systems. The company says that it has more than 200 customers around the world, targeting production applications in the electronics, energy, life sciences, and aerospace industries.

SmartAM technology consists of special focusing optics and a melt pool sensor housed within the modular LENS Print Engine deposition head. The sensor monitors the build process, and control software automatically adjusts laser power to keep the area of melt pool constant.

Numerous studies are reported to have demonstrated that this closed loop method is effective in controlling heat input and cooling rate, and thus promotes microstructural uniformity that defines the mechanical properties of the printed metal. Maintaining melt pool size also ensures the geometric and dimensional integrity of the final part. In actual operation, SmartAM is said to reduce laser power dramatically from the first layer to the end of the build.

SmartAM real time process monitoring and control also makes it much easier for users new to additive manufacturing to successfully adopt the technology and build quality metal parts with layer-to-layer consistency, according to Optomec.

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