Guestblog by Joris Peels - 3D printing strategy consultant
In two previous posts I discussed a number of Additive Manufacturing technologies and gave a definition of 3D printing as well as detailed technologies such as DLP & EBM. In this post we’ll look at Directed Energy Deposition technologies.
These technologies heat a material while it is being deposited. Typically a wire is melted and deposited. There are a whole host of these technologies out there and they are generally derived from arc welding and similar applications.
The huge build volume of a Sciaky EBAM machine.
LENS (Laser Engineered Net Shaping), Laser Direct Casting, Laser Cladding, Laser Deposition and DED (DIrected Engergy Deposition) are all names used interchangeably in the industry. Laser cladding & LENS are the most common terms used while Directed Energy Deposition is the correct term. DED is rather a sad sounding acronym however so no one uses it. The technologies are different with some blowing powder instead of feeding a wire. Some get their energy from lasers others from plasma arcs. If you would like to use these technologies you’ll have to evaluate them all however since, depending on your application, one could be better than the others.
An Optomec System repairing a US Air Force Component
LENS and similar technologies have been around for decades. With LENS you can print on top of existing structures. Due to this the technology is often used to repair items such as turbine blades. A worn down part is made good as new with LENS by adding material to the worn areas. The LENS vendors have quietly been doing much work for the defense and aerospace industries. Another advantage is that these systems can often be mounted on existing CNC machines. The most spectacular advantage however is that LENS systems can make metal 3D printed parts of 5 meters or more. They are not as capable as DMLS and other powder bed systems in making highly detailed parts. Typically a LENS 3D print looks like someone used a glue gun that squirts metal to make the parts. However, once the part is post processed using CNC the part can become very smooth. By compensating for the machining that happens after the 3D printing one can make extremely large 3D printed parts suited for structural components in aircraft for example. Boeing, Lockheed and others have used these parts for military aircraft. Chinese and American companies are currently producing LENS parts for next generation civilian and military aircraft. One very exciting new development is gradient materials made using LENS systems.
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