ORLANDO, FL, April 3, 2012 — A record breaking audience attended the Laser Institute of America’s fourth-annual Laser Additive Manufacturing (LAM) workshop in Houston, which featured a slew of success stories emerging from wider acceptance of the technology.
“The use of CAD-directed lasers to produce consumer products, aviation parts, medical prostheses, and more out of metal or plastic powder is gaining acceptance around the world”, said keynote speaker Terry Wohlers. LIA devoted more of the LAM 2012 workshop to the process because, as fellow keynote Dr. Ingomar Kelbassa of Fraunhofer ILT summarized, the technology offers “complexity for free and individualization for free.”
Additive Manufacturing was estimated to be a $1.3 billion industry in 2010, with compound annual growth of 24 percent; it likely grew into a $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion industry in 2011, said Wohlers, who founded his consulting firm Wohlers Associates 25 years ago in Fort Collins, CO. Initially used primarily for rapid prototyping, LAM’s ability to produce ready-to-use parts in dramatically less time and at far less cost is driving exploration of further applications in a broad range of industries. For example:
- So-called “personal” 3D printers — non-industrial units that cost from $500 to a few thousand dollars — grew from about 66 units sold worldwide in 2007 to nearly 6,000 by 2010, Wohlers said. Small firms like Digital Forming, Shapeways and Materialise offer a slew of customizable consumer products produced with lasers.
- Major aviation firms are realizing tremendous benefits from LAM. Boeing, which uses the technology for 200 parts in 10 production platforms, can reduce a stack of certification paperwork to two sheets of paper. Airbus is gearing up to produce thousands of brackets that connect aircraft galleys and lavatories, saving 50 percent to 80 percent of part weight — and $2.5 million in fuel annually on short-haul flights for every 220 pounds (100 kilograms) eliminated. And Fraunhofer ILT just earned an Aviation Week innovation award for producing an 80-blade high-pressure compressor disk in 160 minutes vs. 180 hours using conventional five-axis milling.
- Dr. Richard Grylls, senior additive manufacturing specialist with Optomec, said his firm has installed more than 150 LAM systems in more than 12 countries. Those systems do everything from make custom dental implants and pelvic bone-fixation plates to repair cast-iron impellers to mold tires. One Optomec customer reports $1 million a year in savings; others have reduced repair costs up to 30 percent, repair times up to 50 percent and improved part weight ratios by 40 percent.
Wohlers enthused about radical projects from a dramatically redesigned bearing for a clothes dryer to the wing of an ultralight craft created as one piece complete with hinged flap. He even raised the possibility of “printing” electronics or battery materials that conform to product shapes.
LAM 2012 also focused on more traditional laser cladding to repair and prevent corrosion and wear. Representatives from Gold Sponsor Joining Technologies, VITO-Flemish Institute for Technological Research NV, Hayden Laser Services and Bronze Sponsors POM Group and Titanova, detailed their latest work.
“What a great workshop” added LIA’s Marketing Director, Jim Naugle “I have witnessed the growth of the event for 4 years. Each year you learn something new about this advancing technology and how it will be a game changer for the manufacturing industry. You won’t want to miss next year’s 5th Anniversary!”
The continued support from overall Platinum Sponsor Alabama Laser along with Gold Sponsors Fraunhofer USA, IPG Photonics, Joining Technologies and Shermco Industries is what completes LAM’s success. We would also like to thank Silver Sponsors Rofin-Sinar, Laserline, Coherent and Bronze Sponsor Trumpf for their continued support and cooperation.
Workshop veterans and newcomers alike found plenty to pique their interest.
“I’m basically here to scout out laser-additive manufacturing to see what it’s about, see if it‘s something we may be interested in,” said senior staff engineer Dave Siddle of Kennametal in Latrobe, PA. “All the speakers have been very good; we have the ‘Wohlers Report,’ and it’s good to hear what he had to say in person.”
To learn about the workshop and find out when to register for next year’s event, visit http://www.lia.org/lam.
Laser Institute of America (LIA) is the professional society for laser applications and safety serving the industrial, educational, medical, research and government communities throughout the world since 1968. www.lia.org , 13501 Ingenuity Drive, Ste 128, Orlando, FL 32826, +1.407.380.1553