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AMCM Debuts 8-Laser Metal 3D Printer for Prometheus Rocket and Forges Partnership with Sintavia

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EOS sister company AMCM has unveiled its upcoming M 8K laser beam powder bed fusion (PBF-LB) metal AM machine. It is expected to launch by the end of 2024. Building on the foundation of the M 4K model, the M 8K’s standout feature is its inaugural task: the system will print the combustion chamber for the Ariane Group’s Prometheus rocket engine. Backed by major European space agencies, Prometheus represents the future of reusable, cost-efficient rocket propulsion for the next era of space exploration. Further strengthening its position, AMCM has also announced a partnership for this new system with Sintavia, sealed with an agreement signed last September.

Taking a closer look at this partnership, Sintavia, an industry frontrunner in additive design and manufacturing for aerospace and defense, already boasts experience with the M 4K system. This collaboration with AMCM signifies a mutual vision of leveraging the advanced capabilities of the M 8K platform.

Brian R. Neff, Founder and CEO of Sintavia, stated, “We are proud to be the first in North America to utilize the larger build volume of the AMCM M 8K for our customers. Our experience with the M 4K over the past two years has been tremendously positive in terms of quality, productivity and service. We are very much looking forward to being able to exploit the possibilities of the M 8K in our production.”

Sintavia plans to integrate its first M 8K into operations by 2025. The machine will join multiple M 4K systems on Sintavia’s production floor, already used to create high-value, precision components for aerospace applications.

Ariane Group Vulcain Vinci combustion chamber. Image courtesy of AMCM.

Aerospace leap

The M 4K previously gained acclaim for its large build envelope of 450 x 450 x 1000 mm and the integration of four 1kW lasers. However, its successor is set to overshadow it. The M 8K works with eight lasers, doubling its firepower, and offers an impressive 800 x 800 x 1200 mm building volume.

Beyond its substantial size, the M 8K encapsulates precision, innovation, and the demands of complex projects like the Prometheus combustion chamber, explains AMCM. This initiative isn’t merely a quest for dominance in the metal printing industry. It’s also a response to the demands of high-profile aerospace applications.

The Ariane Group, known best for its rocket engines, indicated a need for a more substantial build volume. So now, the AMCM M 8K system’s maiden task will be to fabricate the combustion chamber of the Ariane Group’s Prometheus rocket engine. AMCM plans to craft the combustion chamber using the EOS copper alloy CuCr1Zr. Boasting a height of over 1,000 mm and a maximum diameter of 800 mm, this combustion chamber represents an unparalleled achievement in size and quality.

Jan Alting, Head of Future Propulsion at ArianeGroup, stressed the need for high-quality parts and highlighted AMCM’s ability to meet their strict standards: “ArianeGroup’s undertakings are bound by the rigorous standards set by ESA [European Space Agency]. Our emphasis is primarily on the quality of the components, particularly aspects like material microstructure and surface roughness. AMCM’s commendable track record and innovative spirit made them the natural choice for this ambitious venture.”

With the M 8K system playing a key role in future aerospace projects and a strengthened partnership with Sintavia, AMCM is gearing up for significant advancements in aerospace manufacturing. Incorporating cutting-edge technology from EOS, the M 8K promises to redefine quality assurance and process monitoring standards.

Martin Bullemer, Managing Director at AMCM, touched upon the challenges and complexities involved in developing the system. “Designing a system of this size involves a whole range of challenges. The excellent laser, scanner, and optics design with our tried-and-tested beam sources is based on decades of process expertise from EOS. The build volume is four times that of the M 4K, which also means mass. Therefore, the z-axis of the system must be able to move up to 5 tons of powder with the highest precision. The importance of material supply is often underestimated. For printing up to 1.2 m tall parts with high productivity and quality, powder management is key. Reliably feeding tons of metal powder over several days is no walk in the park. You do not want to interrupt the process in any case.”

Due to the machine’s large size and long print durations, maintaining process control is essential. X-ray computed tomography is typically used to check the quality of 3D printed parts. However, integrating the latest EOS technology, SmartFusion, and the monitoring system EOSTATE Exposure OT (optical tomography), the M 8K system promises improved real-time quality checks, potentially reducing later assessments.

Metal marvels

Bullemer said the M 8K will be up and running within a year, with the first printed combustion chambers ready by 2024. This cements the system’s important role in upcoming aerospace projects.

Ariane Group hot fire test. Image courtesy of AMCM.

In the high-stakes arena of 3D printing, several other key players have been rigorously innovating to expand build volumes for a broader range of industrial applications. For example, the newly rebranded Nikon SLM Solutions has made significant strides with its NXG XII 600E model. It boasts a substantial 1.5 m tall build envelope and 600 mm by 600 mm width and depth, highlighting the industry-wide race to scale up. Other industry giants, such as Renishaw, Concept Laser (now under the GE Additive umbrella), and TRUMPF, have consistently driven towards broader, more ambitious horizons in additive manufacturing.

With the introduction of the M 8K and its anticipated role in printing the Prometheus combustion chamber, coupled with a strategic partnership with Sintavia, AMCM underscores the vast potential of additive manufacturing and how companies like AMCM are navigating this revolution in metal printing.

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