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Working on a machine in the Additive Manufacturing Laboratory

Light metals for more climate protection


Lightweight construction through the use of aluminum and magnesium alloys is becoming increasingly important in order to save weight in vehicle and aircraft construction and consequently reduce fuel consumption. At the 11th Ranshofen Light Metal Days, many innovations and future technologies from the field of aluminum and magnesium materials will be presented.

Arbeiten im Additive Manufacturing Labor

The lighter a vehicle or aircraft is, the lower the mass that has to be moved and the lower the fuel consumption and pollutant and CO2 emissions. Lightweight construction is therefore a key driver of innovation in these areas. A 50-strong team at the LKR Light Metals Competence Center Ranshofen, a subsidiary of the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, has been researching lightweight metals based on aluminum and magnesium for years in order to develop efficient, safe and environmentally compatible mobility solutions.

On the one hand, this requires sustainable, efficient manufacturing processes for materials in order to be able to drastically reduce energy and resource consumption already during production. On the other hand, the materials must meet the requirements for use in highly stressed components, e.g. in the new electromobility. Aluminum and magnesium are also valuable recycling materials; they offer an attractive incentive for economic reuse.

[Translate to English:] rundes Bauteil aus Leichtmetall

Im Additive Manufacturing Laboratory entwickeln und erproben Forscher*innen des LKR Leichtmetallkompetenzzentrums Ranshofen Methoden zum 3D-Druck mit Aluminium- und Magnesiumlegierungen.

Wire-based manufacturing at LKR

What hardly anyone knows is that light metals can also be used for 3D printing. The term "3D printing" is often used colloquially as a synonym for "additive manufacturing", "generative manufacturing" or "additive manufacturing". In these technologies, components are generated layer by layer by adding - i.e., adding - material without shaping tools. The basis of the component and its production is based on a 3D CAD file created in the computer. Conventional processes require tools or molds - this is not necessary with 3D printing. There is a wide range of possible materials in the form of wires or powders. The current focus is on plastics and metals. One process that is used for the additive manufacturing of metals is the so-called "wire-based additive manufacturing" - also called "wire-based additive manufacturing" or wire-AM for short.

In order to help wire-based additive manufacturing achieve a breakthrough as a key technology in industry, scientists at the LKR have been researching this robust manufacturing technology and the necessary wires, which are being newly developed, among other things, for several years. In an in-house smart wire manufacturing route, new aluminum and magnesium materials are cast, pressed into welding wires and coiled. "In the Additive Manufacturing Laboratory, these newly developed wires can be built up into a complex 3D component using material-specific process control, a multi-axis robotic system and state-of-the-art torch technologies," explains Martin Schnall, process engineer in the Additive Manufacturing Laboratory at LKR.

[Translate to English:] Numerische Simulation

Numerical simulation is used to optimize the properties of wire-AM components and the manufacturing processes.

Optimization of material quality

"In addition to experimental welding and wire-AM developments, related topics such as material and process simulation based on the finite element method, online monitoring, data management, CAD-CAM interface and inline process control are also being researched at the LKR," says Stephan Ucsnik, Thematic Coordinator in the area of Material based design at the LKR, outlining some of the other key research areas. In the future, research will focus on optimizing material quality, process stability and developing suitable design principles for wire AM components. In particular, online measurement methods and numerical simulations for targeted process monitoring are being developed to promote their use in industrial practice: If quality deviations occur, the corresponding process parameters are to be adjusted immediately.

"With its research focus on the light metals aluminum and magnesium, the LKR is making an important contribution to the development of efficient, safe and environmentally compatible mobility solutions," explains Christian Chimani, Managing Director of the LKR and organizer of the 11th Ranshofen Light Metals Days, which will be held this year on September 3 - for the first time in digital form due to Corona. At this conference, news from science, research and technology development in the field of light metals are traditionally exchanged.

[Translate to English:] Arbeiten an einer Maschine im Additive Manufacturing Laboratory

In "wire-based additive manufacturing" (Wire-AM), a complex 3D component is built up from special wires with the help of a robot and state-of-the-art torch technologies - layer by layer by adding material. The mold was created in the computer; no molding tools are needed.

11th Ranshofen Light Metal Days

Light metals have special properties which must be taken into account and which can be optimized, for example, by changes in the composition of an alloy or by special treatment methods. This year's Light Metals Days will focus on three main areas: "Materials development and characterization", "Process development - experimental and numerical" and "Future technologies". The contributions will come from renowned researchers at the University of Leoben, the Technical University of Graz, the Technical University of Munich, the ETH Zurich and internationally renowned companies such as AMAG Austria Metall GmbH.

At the Light Metals Days, for example, experts from the LKR will be presenting a new aluminum alloy - an Al-Zn-Mg-Cu system - which can even be used to manufacture structural components of an aircraft fuselage with the aid of Wire-AM. This innovation is a result of years of work at the LKR to research and develop welding wires made of aluminum and magnesium materials that are suitable for Wire-AM.