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The technology leader for laser fusing with metals, Concept Laser, and Swisslog, a member of the KUKA Group, have entered into a strategic development partnership.

The partnership was established to deliver an innovative driver-less transport system (DTS), as part of the very latest machine technology from Concept Laser, the M LINE FACTORY, and the production scenario of the “AM Factory of Tomorrow” which lies behind it. This makes Concept Laser the first manufacturer of machines and installations for 3D metal printing to embrace an automation solution for moving modules between the different machine units and within the production environments. The first results will be on display at Concept Laser’s stand (Hall 3.1, Stand F48) at formnext powered by TCT.

Swisslog will bring its many years of expertise in the automation of the flow of materials and intralogistics to this partnership. Swisslog is a globally leading provider of flexible robot-based and data-controlled automation solutions for warehouses and distribution centres. Swisslog’s DTS system is regarded as a key strategic element of the new machine solution, the M LINE FACTORY from Concept Laser.

Swisslog’s task is specifically to integrate a driver-less transport system (DTS) with smart software for fleet management and supplying power to ensure that modules can be moved between different machine units or within an AM factory reliably. Concept Laser by contrast is responsible for the set-up on the transport vehicle so that powder or components can ultimately be moved in automated fashion. In addition, the company from Lichtenfels is also responsible for the docking including the receipt and transfer of the modules.

The planned approach pursues two objectives: Firstly the DTS system should be capable of moving modules between the machine units or within a production environment, and secondly it is all about the intralogistics in the factory for the reliable and automated provision of powder material and powder preparation. “In this collaboration we see the opportunity to implement our highly efficient automation solutions for smart logistics networks in production.” Dr. Christian Baur, CEO Warehouse Distribution Solutions from Swisslog. Concept Laser is seeking to implement automated solutions as part of the process of manufacturing additive metal components. Dr. Florian Bechmann, Head of Research & Development at Concept Laser: “The ambitious concept of the M LINE FACTORY ensures a high level of automation and flexibility in 3D metal printing. The DTS concept from Swisslog is the next stage in the development toward consistent automation of the processes embracing the basic idea of “Industry 4.0.”

Smart factory for the 3D laser fusing of metals

The background to the demand for driver-less systems is the splitting of the production unit and processing unit in the new machine architecture from Concept Laser, the M LINE FACTORY, which means that it is possible to arrange the units physically separate from each other. This splitting now makes it possible to run processes in parallel that previously had to take place sequentially, which ultimately saves both time and money in the production of additive metal components. The production unit, known as the M LINE FACTORY PRD, also includes three separate and thus independent modules for the powder supply, the component structure and the powder overflow. The modules are moved back and forth within the M LINE FACTORY PRD and the processing unit, the M LINE FACTORY PCD, using a tunnel system. The intention is that in the future the storage of powder or even downstream workstations should also be incorporated in an automated fashion. Such an integrated production scenario, which Concept Laser is presenting with the “AM Factory of Tomorrow,” consistently implements the vision of “Industry 4.0” in respect of the demand for automation.