Additive manufacturing: Laser power measurement during machine setup and maintenance
Friday, October 27, 2023
Application: Metal additive manufacturing
Measurement type: Single shot average power measurement, beam profiling
The customer is among the top leaders in metal 3D printing solutions. Their fully integrated metal additive manufacturing machines are used by engineers all around the world to build complex parts, allowing them to achieve excellent performance.
In their business, a loss in laser power or misalignment of the processing laser beams results in costly failed parts for their customers. Therefore, it’s important for them to minimize drift in power, misalignments, and non-conformities. They achieve this by measuring their laser output regularly, especially during machine setup and maintenance in the field.
The parts these machines make end up in medical devices, cars, and aircraft. Preventing minor or major issues due to a potential root cause in how the part was made is key for the customer to run a successful business. Being able to trace manufacturing process variables down to the laser parameters can make a big difference for their quality goals.
By ensuring that their machines produce minimal loss, they not only serve their customers better by providing more value, but they also enhance their reputation as a top-quality 3D printing machine manufacturer.
The metal powder used in the 3D printing process is processed by a laser that operates at less than 1kW at 1070nm. Several beams are simultaneously at work.
An interferometer with fiber-coupled low power (1550 nm) Class 1 commercial laser is also in use in their machines to monitor powder fusion in-process and help adjust the build parameters live to match the part requirements. The difficulty is in achieving precise and reliable measurements from this instrument.
Ease of integration and reduction in required maintenance time are criteria of high interest for this customer.
Gentec-EO’s laser beam measurement experts sat down with the customer’s senior mechanical engineers, senior applications development engineers, and manufacturing engineers to identify the best solution that works for their laser specifications and is compatible with their unique system integration requirements.
For their particular needs, we came up with a solution that involves 3 products:
The PRONTO-6K is used for single-shot average laser power measurements during machine setup and maintenance in the field. Given that their lasers operate at 1070 nm and a little under 1kW this measurement product was a good candidate for the customer needs.
Even though the PRONTO-6K was originally designed to be a portable laser power meter, in this specific case it was a good choice for integration given the compatibility with the customer’s system specifications and the relatively low price for a kW level measurement instrument. The customer needed to integrate hundreds (and eventually thousands) of laser power measurement devices in its machines, so the savings made on the solution are multiplied by the number of machines they sell, which in turn helps their customers keep their production cost low and help remain competitive in the additive manufacturing market.
As its name implies, the PRONTO-6K can measure laser power up to 6 kW. It has an all-metal body, offers high-damage thresholds, and has excellent linearity with power, making it a good candidate for industrial use and integration. Customers can read their measurement output directly on the screen of the device or they can leverage the data logging and data transfer features to analyze their measurements on a PC.
The BEAMAGE-4M-IR beam camera is used for aligning an interferometer with a fiber-coupled low-power 1550 nm Class 1 commercial laser. This equipment is used to measure back reflections from the melt pool using an IR detector for quality control and live adjustments to the build in the system. They need to realign this beam every 6 months, which is automated thanks to their systems which integrate a laser beam camera in it.
The BEAMAGE-4M-IR is a beam profiling camera with phosphor coating for IR wavelengths (1495-1595 nm). It offers a 4.2 Mpixel high-resolution CMOS sensor and ISO-compliant measurements. Its large aperture accommodates large beams. Customers analyze their beam with our free proprietary software or by using our BEAMAGE software development kit.
The BEAMAGE-4M is used to align 1070 nm beams during setup and maintenance using optical pick-off.
The BEAMAGE-4M and BEAMAGE-4M-IR are visually identical. What distinguishes them is mostly the spectral range they support, which are respectively 350 – 1150 nm and 1495 – 1595 nm.
By working with the PRONTO-6K, BEAMAGE-4M-IR, and BEAMAGE-4M, the customer now has a fully integrated solution in the machines they sell to their customers to ensure they minimize drift in power, misalignments, and non-conformities.
Measuring laser output regularly and automatically makes this 3D metal printing laser machine manufacturer confident that the likelihood of the root cause of an accident event being tracked down to their laser parameters is extremely low. This is essential for this business to succeed given that the parts produced often end up in cars, aircraft, and medical devices.
Gentec Electro-Optics specializes in laser beam measurement and analysis. With an outstanding 50-year track record of innovation, developing and providing state-of-the-art technologies to the laser market, Gentec-EO has become The Expert of the laser beam measurement field.
Gentec-EO offers the broadest range of off-the-shelf and custom laser beam measurement solutions. Challenge us with your laser specs and system requirements and we'll come up with the measurement solution that meets your needs.