With a company as large and as influential as GE Additive, you can bet it doesn’t have one single announcement during Formnext. For instance, the company already announced its subsidiary AP&C would begin production of aluminum alloy F357 powder in Q1 2019. In a separate piece of news, the company has also announced that the first Concept Laser M LINE FACTORY systems are expected to be delivered in Q2 2019.
Most in the industry will recall when GE Additive upped its position in the metal AM industry with the acquisition of Concept Laser in December 2016. Since that date, experts from GE Additive (and Concept Laser) have advanced and developed the M LINE FACTORY system, improving its design architecture, system and software, and putting it through extensive beta testing.
“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 of 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.”
The M LINE FACTORY is a modular system that offers a high level of automation and reliability for industrial series production of metal parts. Among the improvements made to the system in recent years are:
- Improved in-machine architecture and automation
- Enhanced serviceability, scalable modular system design and ease of use
- An increased build volume of 500 x 500 x 400 mm
- Onboard software system, including a modularized software architecture, superior exposure strategies and real-time, in-situ process monitoring
- Process control and thermal stability
The M LINE FACTORY consists of two independent machine units: one for part production (the Laser Processing Station) and another for set up and dismantling (the Material Handling Station). As GE Additive specifies, the two units can be physically operated seperately or combined, depending on the user’s preference. This, it elaborates, enables producers to run manufacturing in parallel rather than in sequence, reducing machine downtime and increasing productivity.
The Material Handling Station, which is used for pre- and post-processing, can also be used for powder management and comes with an integrated sieving station. The Laser Processing Station, for its part, is equipped with four lasers (of either 400 or 1,000 W); a unit core comprised of a powder module, a build module and an overflow module; a frontload transport system; and a modular structure that enables multiple machines to be stacked.
The metal AM system to be delivered by GE Additive in 2019 also incorporates various state-of-the-art safety features, including and automated module lidding system for full powder and inert gas containment, contactless powder handling, full automation in the process chamber and water-flood passivation of filters.