Germany-based Concept Laser develops and manufactures a range of industrial metal 3D printing platforms. Utilising the laser melting process, the proprietary name of the company's process is LaserCUSING. As adoption of metal 3D printing continues to increase, most notably for production applications, one issue that is regularly raised by adopters is the need for active quality assurance during and after the production process. Indeed, according to Concept Laser, monitoring the key data from a laser melting system, notably with regards to oxygen content, temperature, laser output and powder quality is supplied as standard, however, monitoring these parameters does not permit a comprehensive statement about the quality of the part. To achieve this, an in-situ process monitoring system is required to obtain information about defects during the build process, and to this end, Concept Laser has unveiled QMmeltpool 3D — a tool for position-related real-time monitoring and three-dimensional visualisation while the machine is running. QMmeltpool 3D is scheduled to be commercially available from 2016, specifically for the M1 cusing and M2 cusing machines.
Within its announcement Concept Laser provides some detail about what its new Quality tool will achieve — specifically that QMmeltpool 3D will provide quality-relevant data in real time for process monitoring and documentation. The system records position-related characteristics of the melt pool while the component is being built up . This data can be visualized in a three-dimensional landscape, and analyzed by the user. According to information from the manufacturer, the analytical tool is comparable to the HD resolution achieved by computer tomography (CT).
The QMmeltpool system uses coaxial sensors to detect melt pool emissions that are created during the fusing process in the form of infrared radiation. The coaxial structure allows restriction to a small region of interest with a high local resolution and rapid scanning rates (up to 50 kHz, depending on the detector type). QMmeltpool 3D is an extension of the former time-related 2D monitoring of the build process, which now includes a position-related 3D landscape allowing for definitive allocation, comparable to computer tomography (CT). These signals make it possible to generate 3D datasets of the part or its structure. A highly accurate 3D landscape of the part is thus created permitting visualisation and evaluation of the part directly after the build process has finished meaning that local effects in the part during the build process can now be detected and analyzed better.
According to the company, QMmeltpool 3D helps to minimize the work involved in quality assurance and to exploit time benefits and adds value through optimisation while new possibilities are opened up in material research and validation of materials for production processes.