FAU News

Developing new technology for multi-material components

A complex, three-dimensional structure made of plastic and produced using additive manufacturing, where plastics are selectively melted with a laser beam, enabling almost any shape to be created (Image: Alexander Fickerl).

DFG provides 10 million euros in funding for FAU research on additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is the technical term for what most of us know as 3D printing. In industry this technology enables components to be produced from materials such as plastic or metal in almost any shape and quantity. At FAU, researchers at Collaborative Research Centre 814 – Additive manufacturing (SFB 814) are researching ways to further improve this technology, as it is currently very difficult to produce components with defined properties that are made from multiple materials. The German Research Foundation (DFG) has recently extended SFB 814’s funding, which was initially granted in 2011, and will be providing it with around 10 million euros for the next four years.

In powder-based additive manufacturing, incredibly fine powder is melted at high temperatures using a laser or electron beam, one layer at a time, to construct the desired component. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods, additive manufacturing allows almost any shape to be produced. With the help of this new technology, components that previously had to be assembled from several parts can be reduced to a single component, for example. Nevertheless, the use of additive manufacturing has not yet become widespread in industry. One reason for this is that only a small number of plastics and metals can currently be used for additive manufacturing. In addition, the degree of reproducibility is often insufficient and materials cannot be combined. Components made using additive manufacturing consist of only one material. It is not currently possible to create powdered forms of certain materials that are required in industry – such as speciality alloys or the engineering plastics used in the automotive industry – or at least not ones of sufficient quality.

This is where SFB 814, led by Prof. Dr. Dietmar Drummer, Chair of Polymer Technology, comes in. Here, together with colleagues from the Bavarian Laser Centre, FAU researchers are investigating how the powders which are currently used behave while they are manufactured and as they are used to create components. One of the aims of their research is to provide the basis for new and improved powders. The researchers are also working on methods of using multiple materials in a single component.

FAU’s strengths in various different areas are brought together at SFB 814. A total of 35 researchers specialising in mechanical engineering, materials science, chemical and biological engineering, and mathematics are working to bring forward new technologies in its 15 sub-projects. Their vision for the future is that it will be possible to produce multi-material components at the touch of a button – in a similar way to a standard printer – possibly using a smartphone to control the processes. This scenario would open up new possibilities in medicine in particular, where it could be used for individual implants, for example. However, there are also other branches where the researchers see great potential for the new technology. ‘Due to the high degree of flexibility when it comes to the design of a component and also the level of production, additive manufacturing will become a key part of production lines in the future. This technology can enable German manufacturers to increase their competitive advantage on an international level,’ says Prof. Drummer.

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Dietmar Drummer
Phone: +49 9131 8529700

Maximilian Drexler
Phone: +49 9131 8529717