International project: design and implementation of a complex laser-based additive manufacturing IoT monitoring digital tool
The Stroka Business Group achieves amazing results in the Pulsate Pan – European project
At the end of 2022, Stroka Business Group was successful in the Pulsate call for tenders, in which we are working in a consortium with Balmar d.o.o. and DISTech Disruptive Technologies GmbH from Austria. Regular monthly coordination takes place with a mentor from Fraunhofer IWS, Germany. The PULSATE network is designed and intended to promote the deployment of advanced laser and additive manufacturing (LBAAM) technologies that will enable the digitisation of different areas in European industries (aerospace, automotive, aviation, etc.).
The main thrust of the call is to support projects in the field of 3D laser beam construction of metallic materials. The idea behind the project is to design and implement a system to support this type of 3D metal construction process. This may also consist of several sub-processes (laser powder bed fusion L-PBF, laser winding, CNC machining).
Additive Manufacturing (AM) metal particle printing involves the deposition of metal powder onto a base plate in layers, using laser beams. The approach allows for flexibility and the production of complex geometries previously considered impossible using traditional manufacturing techniques.
In simplified terms, the call is about monitoring all the parameters involved in this type of metallic material construction. The result is a digital twin of each process in the form of a web application. Having all the data during the process increases the transparency of the reports, but also allows the process to be reproduced and subsequent analyses to be carried out. The project is a good opportunity for international networking and carries a lot of weight in the international market.
The objective was to develop a web application to support the entire production process and to set up a cloud infrastructure (the entire system is deployed in the Azure cloud service) to collect a large amount of data from sensors. The digital tool was named DIGI-H-AM.
The process of building the product consists of the pre-production (setting parameters, designing the 3D model file, selecting the powder) and the actual printing process using the metal powder. During this process of building the final product, which can take more than 20 hours, we monitor nitrogen, oxygen, temperature and humidity on the machine using our app.
The hardware module is the result of a development at DISTech GmbH, and the data capture and the protocol for sharing with the Azure Cloud were defined jointly. At the same time, we record other data of the process itself: machine settings used, product details, base plate data, results of the quality check process, chemical composition of the powder to be built ...
The Influx Cloud is the central repository for this type of data. It is a technology that we have a lot of experience with and an in-house team with the skills to develop it. We are also InfluxData's area partners. Experience from previous digital transformation projects (Digitisation of TAB d.d.) was also key, as otherwise it would have been difficult to develop given the complexity of the area and the interplay of different skills.
How to proceed?
The DIGI-H-AM digital tool has been launched by consortium partner DISTech in Austria and is being pilot tested at the Fraunhofer IWS in Germany. Based on the feedback, we will upgrade the tool and we have a roadmap for further development. One of the key modules in the future will be the connection to a dedicated camera to capture a photo of each layer, within which we plan to produce more than 5000 high quality photos.
A predictive model will be built later in the project to detect any defects in the material or construction of the final product. In the context of hybrid construction, in addition to the powder bed fusion (PBF), we will also support the DED (directed energy decomposition) building process, which is already underway, as we are currently in the functionality design phase including regular technical coordination with DISTech GmbH and Balmar d.o.o.