XXL 3D printing to save energy and material

2 May 2023 – Research institutes and companies from Lower Saxony have jointly developed a giant 3D printer in purpose to produce large steel components weighing several tons. The project is intended to save raw materials in production.
Manufacturing individual large-scale components is usually an energy- and material-intensive affair. In the ‘XXL3DDruck’ project, scientists at the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) have joined forces with partners to test a more resource-efficient way of producing XXL components. To this end, they produced parts of a ship gearbox housing with a mass of up to three tons layer by layer in an oversized 3D printer using a laser-assisted arc welding process.
The XXL printer with an installation space of 3 x 4.5 meters, which is used as a prototype for research and development purposes only, is located at the marine gearbox manufacturer REINTJES in Hameln. It uses laser-assisted arc deposition welding, a high-performance additive process method for metals that achieves high mass throughput. The consortium can apply up to 3.2 kilograms of steel per hour with the printer.
The process can reduce the use of material and energy compared to conventional manufacturing methods: Classically, individual molds are made for the components of marine gearbox housings. This work step is eliminated in Additive Manufacturing. Material and weight can also be saved because components can be redesigned and constructed differently – with hollow walls, for example. Laser-assisted arc deposition welding can also implement individual, component, and customer-specific design requirements.

Steel components like this (approx. 1500 mm x 400 mm) can be manufactured layer by layer with laser-assisted arc deposition welding (Photo: REINTJES GmbH)

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