Spain is now home to one of the world’s largest metal hybrid manufacturing systems. The new machine, the Large Additive Subtractive Integrated Modular Machine (LASIMM), has been in development for some time through a collaborative, Europe-wide effort. Now, the large-format system is ready for operation at industrial equipment supplier Loxin’s facilities in Pamplona and will be used for applications in the construction industry.
Capable of 3D printing metal parts as large as 6 x 2 meters and up to 2000 kg in weight, the massive LASIMM system was born out of a collaboration between 10 organizations from six countries and was supported by funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The groups behind the large-scale AM technology are: Autodesk, Foster + Partners, Vestas Wind Systems A/A, Global Robots Ltd., Loxin2002 S.L., BAE Systems, the European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting, Helmholtz-Zentrum, Geesthacht Zentrum fur Material und Kustenforschung GMBH and the Instituto Superior Técnico.
Together, the partners worked to create a scalable open architecture framework for large-scale hybrid manufacturing with associated software. “Despite the cultural differences that come with such a diverse group, the team members have bonded over wine and pintxos in the evenings after the long days prepping and operating the LASIMM together,” Autodesk, the project’s lead software partner, wrote on its website.
The LASIMM system is made up of a modular configuration of industrial robot arms as well as a specialized milling robot. Used in sequence, the industrial robot arms additively manufacture aluminum and steel and the milling robot machines away surplus material until the final surface and structure are complete. The machine also integrates cold-work, metrology and inspection tools.
From a software perspective, Autodesk has set up a multi-machine-multi-process CAM, pushing ahead the capabilities of hybrid manufacturing workflows. The software makes it possible to combine the two manufacturing processes, creating toolpaths as the part is being built.
Presently, the partners are testing the hybrid technology at Loxin’s facilities in Spain by manufacturing demonstrator parts, including large cantilever beam structures, airplane panels and wind turbine components. Each of the demonstrator parts has been designed by industrial end-users eager to see how the LASIMM technology holds up.
Notably, the LASIMM platform is expected to deliver 20% time and cost reductions as well as a 15% increase in productivity for high-volume additive manufacturing production. Other advantages offered by the hybrid technology are increased manufacturing flexibility and robustness, a reduction in inventory needs, reduced work floor space (because of the consolidated processes), localized manufacturing environments and reduced supply chains. The technology is also expected to contribute positively to the standardization and certification of new hybrid systems.
“While 3D printing for consumers and makers has received a great deal of publicity, it is within the industrial manufacturing and construction industries that this technology could have its most significant and lasting impact,” said Eurico Assuncao, Deputy Director at European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting and the LASIMM project coordinator. “Its use has now reached a tipping point with the manufacture and assembly of one of the largest hybrid manufacturing machines in the world, a technological achievement that will pave the way to enable entire construction infrastructures to be 3D printed in the future.”
Ultimately, the goal with LASIMM is to offer large-scale industries—such as construction, aerospace, transport and energy—the tools to move away from standardized components and implement custom solutions with greater flexibility. The parties behind the hybrid 3D printer believe the launch of LASIMM will really push additive and hybrid processes to the forefront of industrial manufacturing.
Assuncao added: “It’s fantastic that we’re able to showcase the technology’s capabilities to the world through the LASIMM project and we are excited to see the ground-breaking developments that the machine will support.”