Sauer Lasertec, in partnership with DMG Mori USA, say they've developed a hybrid machine to combine milling and additive manufacturing in a single production and setup cycle.
The hybrid will use laser metal deposition, working in conjunction with a five-axis CNC milling machine, to provide both operations during one cycle.
Based on a DMU 65 Monoblock machine tool, the companies say the technology be will demonstrated at machine tool shows in September 2014.
Essentially a Lasertec 65 Additive Manufacturing machine fitted with a 2kW diode laser for laser metal deposition married to the CNC mill, Gregory A. Hyatt, Senior VP and CTO of DMG Mori Advanced Solutions Development, says this solution will allow for more flexibility in processes used to make larger parts.
"By combining additive manufacturing with milling or turning in one machine, additive technologies are no longer limited to small workpieces," Hyatt said. "Our focus is to create a solution for more typical and larger workpieces found in industries such as aerospace, mold and die and energy, and for faster, more productive and economical justifiable deposition rates."
Featuring a build rate of up to 3.5kg per hour, Hyatt says the powder nozzle process allows for the manufacture of large parts and makes the operation as much as 20 times faster than laser sintering in a powder bed.
Hyatt adds that parts can be built in sections with milling operations of important areas taking place before further material additions block any critical areas from being accessed by the cutting tool.
Combining the advantages of milling – high accuracy and surface finish – with the flexibility and high build rate of laser powder deposition is aimed at cutting costs.
"For integral parts that are traditionally milled with a material waste rate of ninety-five per cent and more," said Friedemann Lell, Head of Sales at Sauer Lasertec. "A significant cost saving can be achieved and the rate of waste can be reduced to about five per cent."
The developers say the new machine will be capable of using common metal powders like steel, nickel and cobalt alloys, brass or titanium.
As part of operations, the laser head is located by an HSK interface in the milling spindle and can be automatically pivoted out of the way when the machine is used for milling.
A conceptual model of the tool will be shown this week at Euromold in Frankfurt, Germany.