KINEMATAM | Implementation of a handling system in an additive manufacturing facility

Automated integration of sensors during the laser beam melting process

The manufacturing industry in Germany faces major challenges these days: Labor costs are high and steadily increasing, demands on component quality and reproducibility are growing, and yet most assembly operations are still performed manually. The demand for individualized components with integrated electronics and high component complexity increases and thus requires a high degree of flexibility in manufacturing. The KINEMATAM project addresses these industrial challenges by automated integration of sensors during laser beam melting (PBF-LB/M).

Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy
© StMWi

Sensor integration through automated handling system

According to the current state of the art, an automated handling system was added to a laser beam melting system. This handling system is capable of automatically integrating sensors into a cavity provided in the component when the PBF-LB/M process is interrupted.

In the first step, a powder removal is necessary, followed by the insertion of the sensor into the cavity and finally the fixation of the sensor, as well as a closure of the cavity, to resume the PBF-LB/M process. This process allows the integration of electronics at any point in the component. The integrated sensors are completely shielded from environmental influences, are invisible from the outside, and are integrated without influencing the external component geometry with minimal component weakening. The functional density of a metallic PBF-LB/M component is thus maximized in an automated manufacturing process sequence without the need for post-processing efforts or workforce.

A patent-pending process also makes it possible to flexibly imprint conductive tracks into the metallic component and connect them to the integrated sensors. In this way, sensor data can be transmitted to external systems via these conductive tracks and subsequently evaluated. The project also developed concepts for wirelessly transmitting signals from a cavity completely sealed with metal to the outside using RFID technology (e.g. smart gear wheel in the picture on the right).

Pedal made of AlSi10Mg with integrated strain gauge
© Fraunhofer IGCV
Figure 1: Pedal made of AlSi10Mg with integrated strain gauge
RFID ring
© Fraunhofer IGCV
Figure 2: RFID ring
Measurement of the conductivity of an additively manufactured RFID antenna
© Fraunhofer IGCV
Figure 3: Measurement of the conductivity of an additively manufactured RFID antenna

Video KINEMATAM: Automated integration process

The video shows the automated integration process. This process has already enabled various demonstrators to be produced, which illustrates the technology using examples. For example, a metallic pedal was built, which can determine the user's intention (e.g., pressure = braking) via an integrated strain gauge (see Figure 1). Another demonstrator is the RFID finger ring (see Figure 2). This allows the wearer to potentially carry out payment transactions, unlock door locking systems, identify themselves or store data on their ring.

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The key sectors of Fraunhofer IGCV:

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  • Aerospace
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