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  • Writer's pictureMatthias Bringezu

OWL3D Live & In Farbe

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Last week I had the chance to attend the OWL3D 'Live & in Farbe' Event in Salzkotten, Germany. 'Live & in Farbe' stands for 'live & in colour', as it was the first in-person event since the pandemic had struck.

OWL is short for 'Oststwestfale Lippe', which is my home region near Hanover and home to companies internationally well known. Global players such as Claas, Phoenix Contact, Gildemeister (the G of DMG Mori) and Miele, all come from the OWL region.

OWL3D is an initiative of the local Machine Tool Association, the Direct Manufacturing Research (DMRC) institute of Uni Paderborn) and Additive Marking, a spin-off of the DMRC. OWL3D aims to drive the adoption of additive manufacturing, networking and knowledge exchange of the local industry. The event was hosted at Condor Group / Condor Medtec GmbH.

Dominik Schulte, Managing Director of Condor Group, gave the opening notes, followed by Dr Christian Lindemann, Director of the DMRC, also welcoming the about 100 attendees.

OWL3D 'Live & In Farbe' Event at Condor Medtec

Jürgen Sandmeier from G. Kraft Maschinenbau shared in the first presentation practical examples of using Filament Freeform Fabrication (FFF/FDM) in a production setup of an SME. The applications ranged from rapid prototyping to jigs & fixtures to designs taking full advantage of the layer by layer production process. A modular grip-arm handling tool was a great example of the best uses of Additive Manufacturing. Mr Sandmeier also highlighted concerns of customers with the adoption of AM parts regarding the durability of a 'printed part'.

Modular pneumatic gripper for robotic handling

Dr Ulrich Jahnke from Additive Marking explained in his presentation the benefits of in-process marking of additive manufactured parts. Additive Markings technology allows to label the CAD models with unique QR codes. Gabriele Fruhman from BMW joined in on a call to talk about applications of Additive Markings technology at BMW. The car manufacturer is not only using Additive Marking's technology to label production parts with a unique codes for traceability. Ms Fruhman explained that the marking of tensile specimens on both ends allows easy tracking of the samples for quality assurance. The machine-readable codes make it easy to allocate the specimens precisely to their built position in the machine. This practice allows pinpointing issues, such as hot spots, in an SLS system affecting the material properties.

Dr Jahnke explained it is not all about polymers and showed some metal L-PBF / SLM parts from Rolls Royce. The technology's key is the software used to digitally mark the parts with the QR codes before the build. A mobile app allows scanning the codes quickly with a smartphone. Further, the technology allows further customization of each code by embedding unique identifiers in each QR code pattern by using individual elements. Thus the additive manufacturing processes allow full customization of every QR code on or even 'in' every part helping to fight counterfeits.

Additive Marking QR codes on L-PBF aluminium part

Dr. Jochen Müller from John Deere shared application examples at one of the largest manufacturers of agriculture machines. The applications were predominantly in the area of prototyping, form and fit as assembly jigs using Filament Freeform Fabrication (FFF/FDM) as HP Multi Fusion Jet as Material Jetting. These technologies as applications weren't surprising, given John Deere's machinery and components size. However, Dr Müller highlighted John Deere's ambitions for making greater use of Additive Manufacturing technologies with their potential for customization as spare parts on demand, especially remote regions.

In a short break the attendees had the chance to have a look at the parts in the exhibition and to network over cake and coffee.

Sebastian Magerkohl, from DMRC, presented on the optimisation of the rotor of an electric motor through the use metal L-PBF / SLM. The unconventional design resulted in a weight reduction and a 6% performance increase. For most applications, this might not justify the costs, but in high-performance applications such as actuators on aircraft and satellites, these 6% mean smaller packaging, less weight and a significant impact on the overall business case.

Optimised and additive manufactured rotor of an electric motor

Dr. Tobias Nickchen, from Atos, presented the work of his dissertation at the DMRC. The topic was 'Deep learning for the automation of process chains for AM service providers'. The practical application was to identify AM parts post-process to be able to allocate the printed parts to customer orders. The this is indeed a challenge with hundreds or thousands of parts which have to be broken out of a build and then send to the right customer. Identifying and allocating parts with a probability of up to 85% means a massive reduction of manual labor and thus a cost reduction as faster turn-over.

(These automation steps are key to further growth AM providers, as explained in this podcast interview with Shapeways Co-founder and founder of AM Flow Carlos Zwikker.)

Steffen Heiland, from DMRC, presented on processing the 7075 Aluminium alloy with laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) / Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology. More commonly processed with L-PBF are AlSi10 and AlSi12Mg. However, the material properties of these casting alloys do limit the applications. High-performance aluminium alloys, such as 7075, are more difficult to process and usually do not reach the anticipated material properties due to coarse grains / micro-structures. Controlling the grain structure is key to the material properties. Mr Heiland explained he solved the problem by nucleation with nano-particles. The nano-particles act as seeds for the crystal growths, a bit like dust in the atmosphere enabling snowflakes to form. He added the process strategy was also a pivotal influence in order to achieve fully dense parts.

Micro-structures with the different nano particle nuclei additions

Last but not least, was the presentation from Falk Heilfort by Porsche. Mr Heilfort talked about 'The potential of additive manufacturing and its applications' at Porsche. First he pointed out the ongoing research with partners such as the DMRC. He explained that Porsche is not only looking at new parts but also at the 'spare parts on-demand' for Porsche classic. However, Mr Heilfort pointed out it using AM can be a fine line, as it's not entirely accepted by owners of historic cars. However, Porsche is looking in depths at new make with projects exploring the feasibility of printing entire motor/gearbox cases as creating heavily loaded parts.

Porsche VE project - large footprint L-PBF parts

In a project with piston manufacturer Mahle and L-PBF system manufacturer Trumpf, Porsche demonstrated the possibility of additively manufactured pistons and tested them in a 200-hour full-throttle run on a test rig. Here more about this project.

Currently, the only metal spare part on-demand was a lever of Porsche 959. The component build with L-PBF technology requires computer tomography assessment, indicating the costs involved for such a part. Practically, the future of AM parts at Porsche cars will likely be more in the polymers, with additively manufactured sport seats, customizable regarding firmness and colour.

After the presentations, there was another opportunity to network over drinks and dinner. It was great being able to meet and talk 'additive' in person again. However, disregarding if in-person or remotely from the home-office, it is initiatives like these of OWL3D, bringing industry experts and technology adopters together. I find these events incredible important to get people thinking about Additive Manufacturing technologies. A big 'thank you' to the organizers for facilitating this event, I am really looking forward to the next one.

Get together and networking after the presentations

(Just in case anyone who's wondering about the mask-free pictures, all attendees had to provide proof of vaccination or recovery of COVID or a recent test-result to join the event)

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