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July 1, 2021

GKN Additive develops 3D printing process

GKN Additive target customers are the automotive industry.

By Simon Warburton

GKN Additive says it has adapted and enhanced a DP600-like material, a widely used low alloy dual-phase steel in the automotive industry, for AM manufacturing.

 

The newly developed metal powder materials DPLA (Dual Phase Low Alloy) and FSLA (Free Sintering Low Alloy), meet similar requirements for mechanical properties as DP600 (HCT600X/C), such as higher ultimate tensile strength (UTS) and low yield strength (YS) to UTS ratio, and can be used in Laser Powder Bed Fusion (DPLA) and Binder Jetting (FSLA) respectively.

 

The powder materials as well as parts manufactured with these materials are available immediately.

Target customers are the automotive industry – for example to adapt the design of automotive sheet metal parts – or to develop completely new structural components – but also manufacturers in the industrial sector.

Capabilities of DPLA and FSLA go beyond traditional automotive material DP600:

GKN says it is important to understand DPLA and FSLA are more than the traditional automotive material DP600 (HCT600X/C) simply translated into AM. The new powder materials are specialised for additive manufacturing with regard to spreadability, laser absorption (Laser AM) and sinterability (Binder Jetting).

“Traditional DP600 offers specific standardised mechanical properties achieved by heat treatment,” said GKN Additive Technology manager for Binder Jetting, Christopher Schaak.

“The dual-phase steel AM materials developed by GKN Additive on the other hand are very flexible in their characteristics, as their mechanical properties can be tuned more widely by the heat treatment after the laser or binder jetting process.”

This enables a variety of different use cases in the industrial sector as well and makes the material an candidate for a wide spectrum of customers.

“By using a subsequent heat treatment process to achieve the desired properties with the material within a wide range (medium to high strength properties), an AM provider can use an established printing process that does not need to be changed,” added GKN Additive Technology manager Laser AM Sebastian Bluemer.

“This allows streamlining of internal processes and enables a faster product delivery.”

Before using DPLA and FSLA, GKN would first receive desired characteristics from a customer and then developed and qualified a new material for the laser powder bed fusion or binder jetting process to specifically meet the demands.

This took significantly more time, notes the supplier, than the newly developed materials (DPLA/FSLA) with their predefined wide property field, where different mechanical characteristics can be achieved with one developed printing process, simply by varying the subsequent heat treatment.

New design possibilities, faster functional validation, potential for weight reduction:

GKN maintains for manufacturers in the automotive sector for example, the two materials offer a new level of design freedom and potential for weight reduction. “With these AM processes, manufacturers in the Automotive industry can construct body parts differently than what was possible with traditional sheet metal parts,” noted Schaak.

“If you look at a tailored blank, many sheet- metal parts and support parts need to be formed and joined together to achieve a certain stiffness. By using structural components printed with AM on the other hand, you would need less process steps and less material, leading to cost optimisation and a weight reduction.”

Furthermore, the time it takes for a new product to enter functional validation can be significantly shortened through AM processes. “Our customers want to know what the new AM material can achieve in their respective use cases and how it can be used,” added Bluemer.

“It’s faster to print parts with AM than to retool complete traditional production lines and manufacture the parts the conventional way. This means AM is a good solution to quickly and functionally validate a material and a component and to analyse faster and more efficiently, whether the material can help with a specific application or not.”

Besides optimising existing designs, both Binder Jetting and Laser Powder Bed Fusion with the new material can also be used to develop completely new designs (Design for Additive Manufacturing), for example, bionic structures.

 

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