ORLANDO, FL, April 11, 2012 — Aviation Week affirmed the growing impact of laser additive manufacturing by awarding Fraunhofer ILT a 2012 Innovation Challenge award for a BLISK produced far faster and more cheaply with lasers than with traditional milling.
The honor, bestowed at a March 7 ceremony in Washington, D.C., also affirms the decision by the Laser Institute of America to host its fourth annual LAM workshop. LIA, the recognized leader in laser advocacy and safety education since 1968, crafted a program featuring LAM innovations in producing everything from small consumer products to patient-specific medical prostheses to vital aviation components.
Days before receiving the award, keynote speaker Dr. Ingomar Kelbassa of Fraunhofer ILT told a standing-room-only audience at LAM 2012 in Houston, how his firm can make an 80-blade high-pressure compressor BLISK (blade-integrated disk) with high-speed laser metal deposition in under two minutes per blade – 160 minutes total – at near net shape. He compared those results with conventional five-axis milling, which removes 80 percent to 90 percent of material and takes more than 180 hours.
This is the second innovation award longtime LAM workshop sponsor Fraunhofer ILT has won recently. In November, LIA President Dr. Reinhart Poprawe, director of Fraunhofer ILT, was awarded North Rhine-Westphalia’s 2011 Innovation Award. Dr. Poprawe and his team, including Dr. Kelbassa, were recognized for continuing to push the boundaries of manufacture using selective laser melting.
“In a few years’ time, the way spare parts are manufactured for an established supplier of hydraulic components will be radically different,” Dr. Poprawe noted in a recent interview. “Instead of keeping hundreds of variants of spare parts in stock, the manufacturer will simply store the 3D CAD data of all components that have been produced in the past. Then, when an order is received, the appropriate part can be produced on demand using the selective laser melting process and shipped promptly to the customer.”
Corporate member Fraunhofer ILT is sharing its expertise as a partner with LIA corporate member Joining Technologies of Connecticut, in the Joining Technologies Research Center (www.joiningtech.com/jtrc).
The LAM workshop is a vital part of LIA’s suite of renowned conferences, along with the annual International Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-Optics (ICALEO®) and the newer Lasers for Manufacturing Event (LME). LIA’s signature events present the full spectrum of knowledge about laser-based rapid manufacture, from the research driving it to how and when to use it – and employ it profitably. But even outside the realm of high-tech, the technology is gaining notice. Consider:
• The Economist featured the cover story “Print Me a Stradivarius” in February 2010. In that issue, LAM consultant and LAM 2012 keynote speaker Terry Wohlers noted that more than 20 percent of the output of 3D printers is final products; he expects this to rise to 50 percent by 2020.
• A column in the January 30 Wall Street Journal called laser additive manufacturing one of three keys to the new tech boom in the United States, imagining the “ ‘desktop’ printing of entire final products from wheels to even washing machines.”
In short, Kelbassa told LAM 2012 attendees, LAM promises “complexity for free and individualization for free.” In a society growing increasingly concerned for the environmental impact of products, LAM offers a way to substantially reduce part weight, thereby saving aviation fuel costs and minimizing the amount of material required for manufacture.
To learn more about the LIA, its Laser Additive Manufacturing (LAM) workshop, other events and corporate members, visit www.lia.org.