This initiative represents the merge between Spanish Scientific Research and Industrial sectors and has been funded with more than 7 million euros by CDTI. The collaboration started in 2014 as part of BCAM’s ongoing efforts to work closely with industry and has already shown some promising results
FRACTAL – Development of Spanish-Technology Based Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Systems for Strategic Components via Laser Assisted Powder Sintering – is a project funded with 7 million euros by CDTI through CIEN Strategic Programme that is led by the Basque company ETXE-TAR. 6 other companies (ALME, SIMET, CESA, FAE, Mesurex and Lantec 2000) and 6 research centers, (UPM laser center, CEIT, UPV/EHU, Universitat de Barcelona and BCAM) also take part in the initiative. The project represents the merge between Spanish Scientific Research and Industrial sectors and its main goal is to place the country on the map of Additive Manufacturing technology.
With over 50 years of experience, ETXE-TAR possesses a strong reputation worldwide in the development of machine systems. They intend to introduce their own design of a new fast laser-cladding machine to the market, to be targeted for aeronautical industries. Laser Cladding is a new emerging technology for surface repairing, and 3D metal printing of complex geometries in aeronautical, automotive and other heavy industries. The method makes a stream of powder pass through a typically conical nozzle, depositing that powder on a surface, while a strong laser beam concentrating on them with the adequate focal point heats those powders up, melting them.
It is ill-known, how the quality of the process is affected by applying changes on the design of the nozzle. There, the a valuable contribution of research at BCAM can de made. The uniform distribution of the powder particles during the feeding, and the minimization of lost material are fundamental in this matter: Numerical and computer simulations can help tackle the complex physics of the process.
Researchers from the CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) group at BCAM, who have a strong background and experience in terms of code development and industrial applications, have been working with ETXE-TAR to design a suitable powder feeding system to be used with their new control laser device.
From a computational point of view, the project is challenging, because it is a multi-physics problem with several levels of complexity. Fluid flow governing equations are non-linear, the treatment of the powder behaviour is statistically complex, and affecting the deposition stream, and vice versa. In addition to the previous, the mixture of air and gas is very delicate, and the geometry of the nozzle is rather complex, completing indeed the picture of a complicated problem to be addressed.
The project of ETXE-TAR would have high impact in the field, ostensibly reducing beam deposition processing time. This would additionally be likely to lower associated energy costs, as laser production is an energetically costly technology. The collaboration started in 2014 as part of BCAM’s ongoing efforts to work closely with industry and has already shown some promising results.
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