Product Code: PIC06_Plenary_3

Laser Applications in Additive Manufacturing: Spanning Microns to Meters
James Sears, South Dakota
School of Mines & Technology; Rapid City SD USA

Presented at PICALO 2006

Lasers are currently being applied in many aspects of conventional material processing including cutting, welding, drilling and machining. In recent years laser have been increasingly applied in the development of additive manufacturing technologies ranging from rapid prototyping to rapid manufacturing. The Laser additive manufacturing (LAM) technologies encompass a wide range of applications on scales that cover six orders of magnitude from microns to meters. LAM technologies are processes that use computer control to produce freestanding objects without the use of molds, mandrels, or other tooling. These techniques share the common attribute that part fabrication occurs directly from a 3-D computer aided design (CAD) model by a quick, highly automated and flexible process. This presentation will cover the application of Lasers to those additive manufacturing technologies that are based on particulate deposition. Structural components (on the meter scale) are being fabricated using a multi kilowatt scale Lasers. LAM technology provides the near net shape advantage of reduced cost through reductions in machining efforts, elimination of wasted material, and the ability to fabricate with advanced materials that are difficult to process by conventional means. These technologies offer the potential: to manufacture and repair highly complex parts and assemblies; produce additional cost saving since no part specific hard tooling is required; to significantly reduce design-to-manufacture cycle times; and reduce part to part variability through minimal human intervention. Conventional manufacturing techniques such as casting, molding, forging, or machining require tooling like molds, cores, dies, drills, milling cutters, and fixtures to manufacture the object from a CAD design. Tool fabrication can be time consuming and therefore expensive depending complexity of the part. For instance, after designing a tool it can take from 6 to 16 weeks for fabrication. Micron level fabrication is being accomplished through the use of nano-particulates being delivered and then sintered using watt scale Lasers to produce conductors, inductors and capacitors to form millimeter scale circuits. These systems will be used in a wide range of research activities that include Chemical, Biological, Materials, Electronic and Mechanical Engineering disciplines. Lasers in this case are used for post processing the deposited materials and for micro machining of holes, trenches and ledges.

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