Six Fraunhofer Institutes have demonstrated the individualization of single products in mass production environments by the employment of digital printing and laser technologies. This substantial progress provides completely new opportunities for design and weight reduction by material savings.
Six Fraunhofer Institutes (ENAS, IFAM, ILT, IOF, ISC and IWU) have succeeded to manufacture electrical conductor patterns, sensors, and high-tech lighting modules, individually integrated into components by using digital printing and laser technologies. The result: individualization of components in mass production environments with new opportunities for design, material savings and weight reduction.
The project is fully financed by Fraunhofer. The aim of the project is to exploit the Fraunhofer synergistic potential by joining the competences of several Fraunhofer Institutes to take on current industrial challenges.
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The demand for customized components with sophisticated electrical or optical functionalities in industrial production has been growing for years. By integrating digital printing and laser technologies into existing mass production environments, the challenges of individualization can be faced successfully. Thus, the development of entirely new products becomes feasible.
"At first, it sounds paradoxical to produce unique products in mass production lines. However, if the digital manufacturing technologies of inkjet printing and laser processing are clever integrated into mass production environments, the respective products can be individualized in-line", explains Prof. Reinhard Baumann of Fraunhofer ENAS, project coordinator of the Fraunhofer lighthouse project "Go Beyond 4.0".
In a short video about the lighthouse project (available online: www.go-beyond-four-point-zero.de), the feasibility of combining digital printing, laser processing and further latest production technologies is pictured based on three technology demonstrators.
As a result of the Fraunhofer lighthouse project, the design of automotive body components, here car doors, can be revolutionized. The video shows that conductive tracks can now be directly applied to automotive body parts employing digital printing and laser processes. This makes a complex body part lighter and subsequently the manual installation of a wire harness redundant.
Lightweight constructions in aviation, here wings, are due to their fiber-reinforced composite materials (CFRP and GFRP) suitable for the integration of printable components as temperature sensors or signal lines. Printed heating structures including sensors will enable chemical-free defrosting of wings and the collection of data for the on-board management.
In the course of the lighthouse project, optically transparent bodies such as lenses, projecting lettering or logos, were manufactured by 3D printing and adjacent laser processing. In addition, these processes allow the integration of electrically conducting paths and LEDs into the volume of the transparent optics. The revolutionizing results are complex lighting elements directly displaying dynamic information.