Since 1987, UTBM (Université de Technologie de Belfort-Montbéliard), through its LERMPS (Laboratoire d'Etudes et de Recherches sur le Matériaux, les Procédés et les Surfaces) - ICB (Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Carnot de Bourgogne) laboratory, has been internationally recognized for its work on surface treatments. A pioneer in this field, it has also been developing a complementary metal additive manufacturing activity for the past 20 years.
To reinforce its research, UTBM has just acquired an SLM (Selective Laser Melting) equipped with a "green" laser (515 nm wavelength).
Representing a total investment of 404 k€, supported by the Burgundy Franche Comté region, this new process is unique in France. It complements a fleet of SLM metal additive manufacturing machines, as well as other processes.
This is the first system of its type to be acquired in France (another is currently being operated on a rental basis in the Paris region). To date, there are only seven in the world.
Particularly well-suited to alloys that absorb little laser radiation, such as copper, this equipment uses the specific wavelength of its high-power laser to melt them and thus produce parts. In fact, copper absorbs around 3 times more energy from this equipment's "green" laser at 515 nm wavelength, compared with the 1060 nm infrared lasers commonly used. The result is much better metallurgical quality, among other gains.
This equipment reinforces UTBM's 3D printing capabilities for copper and copper alloy components, which have been the focus of research work by its teams for several years (development of specific alloys, process development, metallurgical studies, characterization of the properties of the materials thus produced, etc.). It thus completes the range of (micro)manufacturing resources available via the MIFHySTO platform for the shaping of watchmaking alloys in particular. The applications targeted are numerous: heat sinks, electromagnets, inductors, electronic and watchmaking parts, luxury goods, etc.
As an initial example, over 20 years' work will have been needed to develop an innovative additive manufacturing process, based on thermal spraying, to produce rocket engine combustion chambers (for the Ariane rocket in particular). In the future, this process will reduce the time needed to manufacture a combustion chamber from 6 months today to just a few days, while using fewer strategic materials and enhancing chamber performance.
Several years of research have also led to the manufacture of inductors capable of generating very strong magnetic fields. These developments were directly used at UTBM to develop the components of the system used to generate one of the world's strongest artificial continuous magnetic fields (37 Tesla in a 37 mm diameter cavity), at the LNCMICNRS laboratory in Grenoble.
The new equipment, which is now in operation, will make it possible to produce parts with more complex geometries than those previously available. It is used to support research work, either in-house or in conjunction with industrial partners, and will soon find its place in the various specialist courses offered at UTBM.
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