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EOS Metal 3D Printers to Feature nLight Lasers

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nLIGHT, the U.S.-based maker of semiconductor fiber lasers, has signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) system manufacturer EOS to collaborate on beam shaping lasers for the company’s metal LPBF systems. Customers can access nLight laser in printers from EOS’s large-format LPBF subsidiary AMCM. In the future, nLIGHT and EOS aim to digitize beam shaping and light engine optimization capabilities, allowing customers to access various beam profiles through EOS software, ultimately boosting productivity.

“EOS is an industry leader in additive manufacturing, and nLIGHT is proud to partner with a company that shares our vision for bringing significant improvements to the additive manufacturing landscape. The teams and technologies at nLIGHT and EOS are highly complementary; we are excited to build on the early success with AMCM to integrate our laser technologies into the wider EOS portfolio,” nLIGHT CEO Scott Keeney said.

“We are always researching industry leading technologies to advance the industrialization of additive manufacturing to meet the emerging application demands and exceed customer expectations. The flexibility and performance gains of nLIGHT’s beam shaping and laser technologies gives us an unprecedented advancement in metal AM systems and will allow our customers to unleash a new level of productivity,” EOS CEO Marie Langer said.

nLIGHT’s programmable AFX laser allows users to manipulate parameters that were previously unchangeable, facilitating light engine optimization and beam shaping. With the same laser, you can adjust the spot size from 85 microns to 210 microns. This flexibility allows for quick rough infill and precise edge detailing, significantly speeding up build times. nLIGHT claims that its lasers can increase print speeds by up to 300% in some cases. Machines with nLIGHT lasers will be on the market at the end of this year.

EOS is often seen as overly careful and risk-averse. In some cases, this is beneficial, but it can make innovation difficult. AMCM is therefore a total win for the firm, as is its consultancy, Additive Minds. AMCM makes custom systems for the strangest, newest, and most demanding applications. This not only lets EOS capture business previously denied to it but also allows it to work at the cutting edge. AMCM is like a skunkworks that lets the company be more flexible, leading to notable success in New Space, where the 8K systems and copper systems allow space companies to make very large parts and copper parts. EOS would have missed out on this development without AMCM. Similarly, Additive Minds enables the firm to handle edge cases and interesting projects that could help it usher in new businesses. Again, we see that beam shaping has been introduced through the servants’ entrance via AMCM.

At the same time, beam shaping is a huge development. With the same machine and the same setup, we can swap out the laser and achieve higher productivity. Beam shaping allows for better heat control and enables the beam to adapt to the optimal shape for each moment. An intense single beam is excellent for cutting but continuously directs a lot of energy into the center of the beam and through the melt pool. In a powder bed, this leads to cast-off smoke, spatter, and other issues that can cause build failures and voids. With nLIGHT, they’re creating a ring instead of just a spot, which mitigates spatter. However, when a tight spot is needed to lay down power for crisp edges, the laser can switch from the ring to the spot.

nLIGHT has seven modes, providing different settings for lattices, massive parts, or combinations of both. More options mean different process windows, hatching patterns, melt pools, and part properties. This development can dramatically improve not only build speeds but also material properties and part consistency.

We often discuss the Laser Wars, but what if we could significantly reduce build times and costs with two or four laser machines? Additionally, what if we could upgrade old machines with new beam-shaping lasers? This is one of the most exciting advancements in 3D printing today.

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