Kingston Bagpuize, Oxfordshire, UK – LaserCUSING®, a phrase coined from the combination of the words concept and fusing, is a process that involves the fusion of a metallic powder by a scanning laser. Initially targeted at the mold tool manufacturing industry for the production of mold inserts, the technology has since undergone rapid development and is truly coming of age.
The Mlab cusing machine, to be launched at the IDS in Cologne in 2011, will take the technology and the ability to directly build metallic parts into new areas with many exciting opportunities. This new machine concept is designed with smaller size components in mind and has a build envelope of 80 mm x 80 mm x 80 mm, dimensions that are suited to the dental and jewelry markets. This latest addition to the Concept Laser family will allow these industries to seriously consider direct digital manufacture for custom components or short batch production.
The Mlab cusing machine will provide the capability to build fully dense metallic parts in stainless steel, cobalt-chrome and precious metals, with more new developments on the horizon. Concept Laser concentrates wholly in developing and perfecting the metallic’s arena within ALM, or digital manufacture. The design features in this new Mlab cusing are targeted at new users of the technology, which are expected to generate the majority of sales.
Mlab cusing also benefits from the ongoing research and process development within Concept Laser GmbH. The latter part of 2009 saw the introduction of a new quality assurance system. This contains individual quality modules that help to create a process that is assured, controlled and documentable. The QA system monitors the construction process in real time and encompasses all of the process components: melt pool, documentation, process gas, powder and temperature. The key element here is the real-time monitoring of the melt pool. In practice, this means monitoring the melt pool at very high sampling rates.
As LaserCUSING® is a micro-welding process in a confined space – a track width of approximately 100 µm with a layer height of about 20 to 50 µm – very high resolution is required. The melt pool module follows the ongoing construction process at several thousand images per second, analyzing the relevant melt-track data, which is recorded and subsequently evaluated by Concept Laser’s own software. These developments in process control plus additional developments in powder handling are evident in the quality and finish of the component part surface and structure.
When applied to applications in the medical implant and dental technology sectors, LaserCUSING® can produce components with micro-or macro-cellular structures that mimic the structure of human bone and thus combine light weight with high mechanical load-bearing capacity. For applications within the jewelry sector, the freedom that the process gives to designers allows complex filigree structures to be produced that would be difficult if not impossible to produce using traditional methods.
The introduction of this new machine to the Concept Laser range will enable the technology to be adopted by forward-thinking laboratories and jewelry design workshops, which can use the unique features of the process to enhance their traditional craftsman skills.