Research project ProLMD: Efficient production of components using laser cladding method

Petra Reus

There is a rising demand for individual and thus more complex products and components. At the same time companies must be able to produce and deliver faster in order to survive on the market. The methods provided by traditional production processes are partly limited.

Additive production processes create flexibility

Additive production processes can be helpful here. Instead of milling or drilling a component from a solid block like in classical “subtractive” processes, the components are joined in layers in “additive” production processes. Thus, production of components or products is much more flexible. In addition, infinitely large, three-dimensional components can be installed automatically. This provides many possibilities of economic production of individual products. Thus, e.g. locally reinforced structural parts in aircraft construction or highly functional components for turbines, contrary to conventional production, can be produced more cost-effectively and independent of the size of the components.

The project ProLMD

Advantage is taken of such an additive method, the Laser Metal Deposition method (LMD), in the research project ProLMD. Together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology, KUKA is working on developing an economic process chain with system and process technology. Metallic high-performance and lightweight components for the aerospace and automotive industries shall be produced efficiently. The results of the project will be demonstrated as prototype components at the involved project partners MTU, Airbus, and Daimler.

Use of KUKA robots as basis

The use of industrial robots can reduce costs, and component geometry and size can be dealt with more flexibly. The development of a flexible inert gas system, which is only used where it is necessary, will result in further advantages. The developed system is completed by new laser processing heads operating both with wire and with powder as filler materials, and by a CAM system suitable for hybrid production. Within the scope of ProLMD several filler materials are researched for the development of highly efficient laser cladding processes, and the components resulting hereof are tested e.g. regarding load capacity and quality.

Laser cladding is interesting for many industries

Due to the increased freedom and flexibility in product development, the reduction of costs by more than 10%, and the careful treatment of resources, the LMD production method is also interesting for many other industries. So this method as well as the results from the project ProLMD can e.g. also be relevant for aerospace, energy production, and the small- and medium-sized tool construction.

Do you want further information? Then visit our website and learn more about laser cladding at KUKA.

This research and development project is promoted with funds of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and is coordinated by the project management agency Karlsruhe (PTKA).

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