OPTOMEC introduces robotic automation technology for metal additive manufacturing maintenance
Optomec, the developer of laser engineered mesh forming (LENS) and aerosol jet printing (AJP) metal 3D printers in New Mexico, USA, has introduced robotic automation technology in its Hoffman 3D metal additive repair machine series. The company has combined its Huffman laser sandwich panel with Fanuc LRMate 200, which is a compact six-axis industrial robot with approximately the size and reach of a human arm. Robot integration aims to automate the loading and unloading process of parts for mass repair of turbine blades and blades. “Before automatic laser cladding, the work flow of turbine blade repair was long and complicated.” explained Todd Lorich, engineering manager of Optomec’s Hoffman automatic laser cladding machine series. Optomec has greatly optimized the process by combining vision systems, software and laser cladding into a hardened production-level process step. Now we have to step by step. Adding robot parts processing functions inside the machine can truly automate the process, so that the operator can free up more energy to add more value to the workflow.
Optomec Huffman DED system with robotic arm. The picture comes from Optomec. Optomec LENS Technology Optomec is headquartered in Albuquerque and was established in 1997 to provide LENS 3D Printing, which is a proprietary technology developed by Sandia Laboratories. LENS is based on Directed Energy Deposition (DED) additive manufacturing technology, using metal powdered raw materials, which are blown out through a nozzle and then melted when in contact with a laser array to make 3D printed parts. The capabilities of the LENS process make it particularly suitable for adding new materials to conformal surfaces and prefabricated components. Therefore, it has been used in a range of applications for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and waste reduction. In the project led by Navajo Technical University (NTU), LENS was also used to help NASA reach the moon in 2024. Optomec provides LENS 3D printing technology, which is both a turnkey system and an upgrade to the existing multi-axis CNC milling machine. At the end of 2019, Optomec announced that it had reached the milestone of delivering its 500th 3D printer worldwide, including its AJP system, the company’s technology for manufacturing electronic products on 2D and 3D substrates.
Optomec’s new LDH 3.X laser deposition head provides maximum flexibility to achieve the best DED construction within the entire laser power range. Picture from Optomec Inc.’s acquisition of Hoffman As early as 2018, Optomec acquired Hoffman LLC from Clover, South Carolina, a supplier and service provider of CNC and laser cladding machines. Founded in 1961, Huffman has extensive experience in the supply of metal 3D printing systems for additive repair of gas turbine components in the energy and aviation markets. In this transaction, Optomec President and CEO David Ramahi said: “Through the acquisition of Huffman, we aim to expand the use of DED/LENS repairs to the existing installed base of more than 100,000 gas turbines and engines.” Hoffman is now a brand operating under Optomec and includes a series of DED-based laser cladding systems designed to meet the needs of various additive manufacturing repairs and hard-surface applications of turbine or engine components. By integrating the Hoffman series of laser clamps with the Fanuc LRMate 200 manipulator, Optomec aims to automatically load and unload parts into the chuck of the laser chuck. Through trays and racks containing twelve or more components, the cycle time of the system can be shortened. In addition to turbine blades and blades, the potential for extensive repairs can also be used in many industrial applications. For example, repairing the sealing surface of diesel engine parts, or adding surface hardening materials to industrial valve parts.
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