FIT Additive Manufacturing Group and the FAU University of Erlangen-Nuremberg have received a grant notification from the Bavarian State Minister of Science for their joint research project entitled FAB-Weld. The project aims to break down size limitations associated with SLS 3D printing by welding various printed components together to create individualized series parts. Overall, the FAB-Weld project is focused on optimizing welding processes for SLS 3D printed plastic materials.
With funding from the Bavarian Research Foundation, FIT Additive Manufacturing and the Institute of Polymer Technology (LKT) at the FAU University of Erlangen-Nuremberg will embark on the three-year FAB-Weld research project. The initiative will also see cooperation from German automotive company BMW.
Throughout the project, FIT Additive Manufacturing will be represented by its subsidiary Sintermask, which specializes in selective laser sintering (SLS) processes. The 3D printing technology, though limited in size, has many advantageous capabilities, including producing complex and cost efficient thermoplastic parts. Compared to injection molding and other traditional manufacturing practices, SLS offers the benefit of not requiring costly molds and having greater design freedom.
Overcoming the size restrictions of existing SLS print beds by attaching separate pieces together is not quite as simple as it sounds. In order to properly join SLS parts with either other printed parts or injection molded components, a high-strength, media-impermeable connection is needed. One which is preferably made from the same material as the part in question, FIT adds.
The FAB-Weld project will seek top find an optimized welding solution for SLS parts with a particular focus on vibration welding and infrared welding processes. As part of the research project, FIT will 3D print sample parts and will determine key mechanical figures by analyzing the mechanical properties of the welded parts using in-house testing and measuring systems, such as GOM scanning and CT scanning.
“We simply don’t have any intelligence about high-strength welding of SLS parts, so this is a great opportunity to investigate very basically the processes of welding SLS parts,” explained Christian Wiesner, who is leading the project at FIT. “The findings will be a significant benefit for the further development of AM regarding SLS technology.”