A technology originally developed to smooth out and pattern high-powered laser beams for the National Ignition Facility can be used to 3D print metal objects faster than ever before, according to a new study by Lawrence Livermore researchers.
This new method – Diode-based Additive Manufacturing – uses high-powered arrays of laser diodes, a Q-switched laser and a specialized laser modulator developed for NIF to flash print an entire layer of metal powder at a time, instead of raster scanning with a laser across each layer, as with conventional laser-based powder-bed fusion additive manufacturing systems.
By using high-powered arrays of laser diodes and a specialized laser modulator developed for the National Ignition Facility, researchers could potentially 3D print large metal objects in a fraction of the time needed for metal 3D printers on the market today, according to a new study by LLNL researchers.
Much like a liquid crystal-based projector, researchers explained, the OALV is used to dynamically sculpt the high-power laser light according to pre-programmed layer-by-layer images.
In NIF, the OALV is used to optimize the profile of the laser beams and locally shadow and protect optics subjected to higher intensities and fluences. With DiAM printing, the laser light is sourced by a set of four diode laser arrays and a nanosecond pulsed laser.
The laser diodes – which provide most of the energy compared to the pulsed laser system – are also cheap to purchase, so such a system would be more cost-effective than fiber laser-based machines on the market today.