M.TEC has been using various additive manufacturing technologies (AM), also known as "3D printing", since its foundation in 1991. While in the 1990s the application possibilities were still very limited due to the limited choice of materials, processes and performance of the equipment, especially the basic patents of various AM processes, which expired in the 2010s, led to a broad innovation push in this technology area.
Basically, additive manufacturing differs from conventional manufacturing processes by the layer-by-layer ("additive") application of liquid or solid material, without the need for tool-bound shaping, as in injection molding. The advantages are obvious: the production of almost any complex structure while saving weight and achieving maximum stability and a large degree of freedom in component design with regard to simulative optimization, functional integration and individualization. At the same time, even the smallest batch sizes can be produced at acceptable unit costs.
AM procedures and services in use
At M.TEC, the most common AM procedures are used today to support product development, depending on the necessity in the project. They differ depending on the material.
- Stereolithography (SLA) and Digital Light Processing (DLP)
- Selektive Lasersintering (SLS)
- Fused Layer Modeling (FLM) / Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
- Material Jetting – PolyJet / MultiJet Modeling (MJM)
- Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
Suitable component types and products
In addition to the use of additive manufacturing to produce components as a visual demonstration object, engineers at M.TEC also use the technology in models for functional testing or for use as an end product. Of course, M.TEC generates the necessary data records, depending on the AM process, in .STEP and .STL format for monochrome components and in .WRL/.VRML and .OBJ format for colored components.
For a meaningful use of the additive manufacturing processes, first the component requirements and the subsequent field of application as well as the material requirements and component loads should be analysed. Depending on this, one or more AM processes can be considered.
In the field of additive manufacturing of metal components, the engineers of M.TEC were already able to prove their competence, especially in the area of simulation & calculation, in an ambitious, future-oriented project. Within the framework of the BMBF research project "ToPoLight", a load-adapted and weight-reduced wheel carrier made of 1,7734 steel was developed for a prototype racing vehicle under the leadership of M.TEC. The topological adaptation of the outer geometry as well as a load optimized grid structure inside the component made it possible to significantly reduce the weight while maintaining the mechanical properties and reducing component distortion (indeed a major challenge for AM metal components).