Providing an affordable way for SMEs to embrace additive manufacturing, the LMD hybrid platform demonstrates that those with existing CNC technologies can retrofit their machinery to accommodate additive manufacturing at a reduced cost compared with off-the-shelf solutions. The machine was integrated by Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies, a tier-two partner at the AFRC.

Firms can use the technology to access new markets through hybrid manufacturing, for feature addition or remanufacturing high-value components and tooling across sectors such as aerospace and energy. The platform allows the subtraction or addition of metallic materials on one machine with a simple tool change. Integrating the technology within existing machines offers firms a host of benefits, including reduced capital investment.

Along with machining and LMD, the equipment also performs rotational cladding, commonly used for the application of corrosion and wear-resistant coatings, which is essential for high-performance components.

During the LMD process, metal powder is projected into the path of a high-power laser. It is then melted on to a component or substrate in layers until the final desired geometry is achieved. Thanks to fast build rates, LMD is frequently used for adding features to an existing surface, or building products from scratch.

The LMD hybrid platform is suitable for remanufacturing products that would otherwise be scrapped due to service failure, wear over time, or end of working life situations. This capability provides savings on materials wastage, lead times and cost. At the AFRC, the system is being used across a number of industry research projects, including DigiTool, which seeks to rejuvenate the UK tool and die sector through supporting the uptake of remanufacturing using digital technologies.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, machining and additive manufacturing team lead at the AFRC, says: “The LMD hybrid platform is a significant addition to the overall offering of the centre, allowing us to develop a completely new range of capabilities that can help overcome manufacturing challenges. The ability to machine a part through a variety of technologies on one unit, before carrying out non-destructive analysis, gives SMEs the chance to utilise numerous developed methods at a lower cost.”

The AFRC is hosting a free workshop on machining and additive manufacturing on 28-29 August 2019. To find out more and book a space click here.