GE's first scalable additive systems ready for production
GE Additive has announced that its first Concept Laser M LINE FACTORY systems will be delivered to customers in Q2 2019. Since GE Additive’s acquisition of Concept Laser in December 2016, the M LINE FACTORY’s design architecture, system and software have undergone extensive review and redesign in line with established GE processes and beta testing with selected customers.
“The positive impact the M LINE FACTORY can have on our customers’ operations and their bottom line is huge,” said Jason Oliver, President and CEO, GE Additive. “It’s important we provide technologically advanced systems that are reliable and add value to our customers. M LINE FACTORY delivers on those commitments.”
As additive manufacturing transitions from a prototyping to production technology, the demand for machines increases, as does the demand on production floor space and the number of operators required to run production lines.
Existing standalone machine solutions barely allow for economical series production. The M LINE FACTORY’s modular machine architecture is instead designed to offer a higher level of automation and reliability, which drives economical, scalable series production on an industrial scale.
During detailed rig testing and lifetime testing, a number of areas were identified for improvement and have since been incorporated into the system:
- Improved in-machine architecture and automation
- Enhanced serviceability, scalable modular system design and ease of service
- Increased build volume: 500 x 500 platform
- Onboard software system with a modularised software architecture, superior exposure strategies and real-time, in-situ process monitoring
- Process control and thermal stability, so that key process variables can be controlled, improving part quality.
Part production, as well as set-up and the dismantling processes, will take place in two independent machine units. The units can be physically operated separately from one another or combined, depending on each customer’s preference. This enables production processes to run in parallel rather than sequentially, which reduces downtime considerably and in turn increases the availability and output quantity of the process chain.
Laser ‘on’ time is heightened by separating the individual work process and the pre/post processing unit, while maintaining a fully integrated machine design:
In the M LINE FACTORY LPS (Laser Processing Station) the unit core comprises three independent modules — the powder module, build module and overflow module — which for the first time can be activated individually and do not form one continuous unit. These modules are transported automatically via the internal transport system. Both a frontload transport system or automated internal transport system are supported, and an increased overlap within the build field improves laser productivity potential. Flexible configuration allows build and process time to dictate LPS to MHS ratio. Footprint efficiency has been maximised with the ability to stack up machines in a series alignment.
The M LINE FACTORY MHS (Material Handling Station) is a processing unit giving pre/post processing and powder management with an integrated sieving station.
The M LINE FACTORY automates upstream and downstream stages of the production process and provides interfaces to conventional manufacturing methods in the form of automation, interlinking and digitisation.
The system forms part of GE Additive’s focus to provide additive machines that are reliable, repeatable and ready for series production.
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