Q&A with Dwight Smith

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1956

Before we get into the specifics of the LAMDA500, please explain what powder DED (directed energy deposition) is and why it’s important to metal-based additive manufacturing.

Powder DED offers a higher deposition rate than PBF and ability to print functionally graded materials. A major benefit is the ability to print very large structures. In particular, the Nidec LAMDA system, which does not need a chamber for reactive materials, can be used to produce very large parts. In certain applications, the overall cost to manufacture can be lower than either traditional manufacturing or powder bed fusion.

Another major application is to repair and add material to existing components. Multiple materials can be applied selectively to specific locations making it possible to repair large and expensive components cost efficiently.

What kinds of industries would you find the need for powder DED?

Aerospace, including space, defense and military, oil and gas, mining, shipbuilding, die mold/automotive as well as general machine shops.

How does the LAMDA500 advance powder DED?

Benefiting from the extensive research and development carried out by Nidec, the LAMDA has two major advantages over all other DED systems. The first is the monitoring and feedback system. Nidec has patented portions of the technology that analyze over 300 video frames per second to provide near real time control of laser power and other parameters. This controls the melt pool, provides a complete production map and quality documentation. Our testing illustrates that this highly advanced feedback methodology provides superior metallurgical results in 3D printing as well as high accuracy. Many features can be used as printed or with minimal post process machining.

The second is the in-house designed nozzle technology. This provides the ability to focus and control the delivery of the powder which is essential for accurate and consistent production. This advanced design can apply two different materials individually and combined. The local shield system, designed with the use of CFD, provides the largest inert gas shield to keep oxygen out of the material being melted.

How does the LAMDA500 handle different types of metal, particularly reactive metals such as aluminum and titanium?

The highly developed, in-house designed nozzle delivers a shield of inert gas, usually argon, to completely shield the melt pool and the surrounding area during the build.

Could you explain the exclusive proprietary nozzle design of the LAMDA500 and what makes it so unique?

Because of the importance of maintaining material integrity of reactive materials, combined with the need for near net accuracy, material delivery and shielding of the melt pool are essential. Extensive development was undertaken and has achieved these goals. In particular, the use of computational fluid dynamics was employed to perfect the inert gas shielding to provide up to two times the shielded area compared to other units on the market.

Can it be a tool used in gear manufacturing?

It certainly can; however, the economics of it could probably only apply to very low volume — prototype stuff. It actually has very broad applications in repairing transmission shafts or building housings. Because of the ability to build large scale components, you could print a 3D transmission housing.

You’re installing a LAMDA500 in your Wixom, Michigan, facility. What will it be used for there?

The machine will be utilized for making test coupons for material tests and to make test components for customers. Demonstrations and specific test building, as well as cladding/repair operations, will be undertaken.

When will the machine be available to be used by your customers?

With installation slated to be completed by late June, we will begin providing testing in July 2023.

What advantages will this give your customers?

We are eager to provide easy access to what I believe to be the world’s most advanced powder DED laser system. Customers can test print their challenging and critical parts and work with our application engineers to build the future.

What’s been the market response?

It was exciting to see the response of people at the Rapid+TCT show in Chicago a couple weeks ago.

We exhibited an Inconel rocket nozzle made in the LAMDA500, and the accuracy of the cooling channels in the intersection was generally surprising to people who understand DED. Typically, DED and other types of processors would have a radius in these corners, but the one-millimeter wall thickness and the sharp definition of the junctures was extremely surprising and exciting for customers to look at. 

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