Additive manufacturing has become increasingly important for production technology in the last few years. In particular, laser sintering (LS) has made a major step towards mass production of individualized products in the automotive industry, for example. However, the vertical and horizontal integration of additive manufacturing processes into conventional lines has only been implemented to a limited extent. Reasons are a lack of cross-process chain standards and low levels of automation in the machining and transport processes. For example, little attention has been paid to component cleaning and the detection of impurities so far.
An advantage of additive manufacturing is the possibility to generate complex structures, followed by the disadvantage of process-related accumulation of contaminations on filigree components that are difficult to access. This can be relevant for additive manufactured plastic components, for example, which react to even the smallest contaminations by impairing their function and service life.
Digitalized production lines for the automotive industry desired
In the automotive industry, there is a growing desire to fully exploit the high potential of additive manufacturing processes in series production lines. In the future, this will reduce process time and susceptibility to errors and increase product quality. The POLYLINE project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, brings together 15 industrial and research partners from Germany to develop a next-generation digitized production line. The aim is to complement conventional manufacturing techniques (e.g. machining, casting, etc.) with Additive Manufacturing (AM) in the form of high-throughput production line systems. In this way, a continuous digital process chain will be created from process preparation through the LS process, cooling and unpacking as well as cleaning and post-processing of the parts (see Fig. 1).