According to Protolabs, it will soon be 3D printing parts on the largest powder-bed metal additive-manufacturing system in the world. The Minnesota-based company will add a GE Additive Concept Laser X Line 2000R machine to its production services this summer. The direct metal laser melting (DMLM) machine achieves a build volume of 31.5 inches x 15.7 inches x 19.7 inches (800 mm x 400 mm x 500 mm). The ability to additively manufacture parts of this size means that entire assemblies can be designed and printed as a single piece.
The large-format machine contains two build modules, which reduce downtime by allowing one build to take place while another is being set up. Although the machine can be used with a variety of metal powders, Protolabs has selected Inconel 718 to be the initial focus material to better serve its aerospace customers.
“Our customers, especially in the aerospace industry, have told us they need the ability to create larger parts with complex geometries,” said Vicki Holt, president and CEO of Protolabs. “Through our partnership with GE Additive, we are responding by scaling up use of its equipment to further support our customers’ metal production needs.”
To further grow its DMLM production capacity, Protolabs also added four more GE Additive Concept Laser M2 printers, which are capable of manufacturing parts up to 9.8 inches x 9.8 inches x 13.8 inches (250 mm x 250 mm x 350 mm). In addition, Protolabs will install a new Ipsen vacuum heat-treat furnace to enable more in-house heat treatment, which will improve the consistency of mechanical properties of manufactured parts.