Recent technological advancement has led to the rapid development of the manufacturing industries. Among the newly developed manufacturing technologies, additive manufacturing has attracted significant attention of researchers owing to its ability and great efficiency in manufacturing more complex geometries. Presently, selective laser melting is widely preferred in the manufacturing industries especially when a high degree of accuracy and surface finish is required.
In a recently published literature, process parameters such as layer thickness and exposure time have remarkable effects on the mechanical performance of the parts produced through additive manufacturing. As such, understanding the relationship between the process parameters, mechanical properties and microstructure is of great importance in optimizing the manufactured parts.
However, considering the current global gospel on energy conservation and sustainability, the implication of additive manufacturing on energy consumption and sustainability has not been fully explored. Alternatively, several models have been developed to determine the energy consumption of these processes as well as their corresponding effects on the environment. Interestingly, laser manufacturing has been identified as a promising solution for minimizing energy consumption and environmental impacts. This is too attributed to its capability of meeting the desired part quality requirements.
To this end, Zhejiang University researchers Dr. Yi Zhu, Dr. Tao Peng, Mr.Guofei Jia, Mr. Hong Zhang, Ms. Shuangmei Xu, and Prof. Huayong Yang from the State Key Laboratory of Fluid Power and Mechatronic Systems investigated the various process parameters involved in selective laser melting. In particular, they looked at the relationship between the mechanical performance and electrical energy consumption. This was in an attempt to determine to optimize the process parameters to minimize the energy requirements without comprising on the work quality and mechanical properties. Their research work is currently published in the journal, Journal of Cleaner Production.
In brief, the team commenced their work by fabricating parts made of 316L stainless steel using selective additive manufacturing process. Next, their mechanical properties and corresponding electrical energy were measured. Fundamentally, two main parameters, exposure time and laser power, were taken into consideration during the mechanical properties testing. They looked forward to providing a reference for parameters optimization for reducing the energy consumption and enhancing the mechanical properties.
The authors noted significant differences in the electrical energy requirements for enhancing the mechanical properties of the 316L stainless steel parts. For instance, increasing mechanical properties like flexural strength, torsional strength, and tensile strength required high electrical energy while on the other hand, density could be increased without necessarily increasing the electrical energy.
Zhejiang University scientists successfully highlighted the importance of considering the relationship between electrical energy consumption and mechanical properties in selective laser manufacturing. To actualize their study, they presented process parameters optimization reference based on the growth rate of the electrical consumption and mechanical properties. It was worth noting that saving electrical energy to some extent depended on the selected process parameters. Also, energy consumption was realized to be greatly affected by material properties design and thus should be considered during product design. Altogether, despite considering two main parameters, the study paves way for the analysis of many more process parameters for minimizing the energy requirements of selective laser manufacturing processes and reducing the environmental impact.
Zhu, Y., Peng, T., Jia, G., Zhang, H., Xu, S., & Yang, H. (2019). Electrical energy consumption and mechanical properties of selective-laser-melting-produced 316L stainless steel samples using various processing parameters. Journal of Cleaner Production, 208, 77-85.Go To Journal of Cleaner Production