Additive manufacturing of high-precision inductors through selective laser melting (SLM)
eldec achieves a new level of quality and dramatically improves tool life in inductor manufacturing with Selective Laser Melting (SLM). This technology also makes it possible to produce more detailed and innovative part geometries, achieving a new range of workpieces – perfectly reproducible, even for large volumes of tools.
Quantum Leap for Induction Heating and Induction Hardening
The inductor is crucial in the effort to perfect the induction process. Traditionally, these tools are produced within a demanding manufacturing process. As for any manual production, this gives rise to minimal tolerances that are compensated for on the machine in subsequent processes – however, all of this takes time. There is an additional challenge during the design: for optimal inductor cooling, there cannot be any “dead areas” that have a lower coolant flow rate within the inductor. This cannot always been controlled in manual production because the freedom in the design of cooling channels is severely restricted by the use of pipe parts or turned and milled parts.
Against this backdrop, the SLM process implemented by eldec allows for a quantum leap in inductor manufacturing:
The tool is built, layer by layer, in a powder bed with laser cladding based on information from 3D data. With this process, we can achieve topologies with few geometric limitations and perfect coolant flow – something that was impossible in the past. Another benefit of the optimized coolant channels are the improve service lives for the inductors. The tool is subjected to a heat treatment and the inductor base is brazed on.
The advantages of this approach are simply phenomenal:
- More durable: The inductor’s cooling capacity is perfect in every respect. The rigidity of inductors manufactured using the additive process is vastly superior to that of conventionally manufactured ones. This in turn drastically increases tool life, as the feedback from a great number of customers attests.
- Fewer limits: There are barely any limitations in production – even extremely small and intricate inductors are now possible for the first time, allowing for a whole new range of workpieces.
- More precise: The tool’s general dimensional accuracy increases significantly, and the 3D manufacturing process is fully reproducible.
- Faster: All design data directly flows into the additive manufacturing. The entire process, from design to start of functional tests, is extremely fast – decreasing inductor delivery times.
Perfecting the Hardening Process
The SLM process is part of the “High Precision Tool System” – a major tool-oriented quality offensive at eldec. It consists of several steps: The inductor is developed using 3D design software, is 3D printed, is tested prior to delivery using high-precision 3D measurements, and is finally positioned in the MIND-L 1000 hardening machine with minimal tolerances by means of a 3D tool socket.
- Optimal coolant flow for much longer tool lives
- Extreme dimensional accuracy
- Entire process is fully reproducible
- New range of workpieces made possible
- Faster development processes
- No more brazing areas