Called Polyline, the aim is to supplement conventional manufacturing techniques (e.g. machining, casting, etc.) with additive manufacturing (AM) in the form of high-throughput line production systems. The project was kicked off at meeting of all consortium partners on March 4, 2020 at 3D-printing expert EOS’ Krailling near Munich site, the company leading the effort (group members pictured).

The project is part of the funding measure ‘Line integration of additive manufacturing processes’ as part of the funding program ‘Photonics Research Germany - Light with a Future’ .

AM can realise almost any geometry and even complex structures without significant additional effort, offering a large step towards the mass production of individualised products. Currently, however, the vertical as well as the horizontal integration of additive manufacturing processes in conventional lines can only be implemented to a limited extent, because there is a lack of cross-process standards. This is due to AM-specific production steps (e.g. production time in the ‘batch process’) and the generally low level of automation of the physical handling and transport processes.

In addition, the digital data chain along the horizontal process chain is not continuous at many interfaces, which currently leads to lack of transparency, error susceptibility and limited monitoring along the process chain, and makes integration in relevant production controls more difficult. These barriers limit the obviously high potential of the AM processes in existing series production and assembly lines.

In order to achieve the project goal, Polyline aims to deliver a digital and physical system breakthrough. For this, it is important to record and document all key parameters and quality criteria (including labelling, history and measured values) from the CAD model to the finished component. The individual sub-processes of production - from process preparation to the selective laser sintering process, cooling and unpacking, as well as cleaning and post-processing of the parts - are automated and incorporated into the planned production line, in which all trades in an SLS production chain are fully included for the first time.

Polyline uses a new solution approach that takes a holistic view and implements all required processes. The targeted production line is planned to be implemented with a high degree of maturity, according to the requirements of the application partner. The use cases include customised components, as well as serial components in large quantities.