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Kurtz + Alpha 140

Future-Proof: Alpha 140

Direct entry into metallic 3D printing

3D printing is a relatively young manufacturing process – selective laser melting, one of several 3D printing technologies, started in 1995 at the Fraunhofer Institute in Aachen as a German research project that resulted in patent SLM DE 19649865. The industrial world calls the process additive manufacturing or “AM”. It has long since outgrown its infancy and is poised to dramatically change industries such as automotive and mechanical engineering or medical and aerospace engineering. Machine manufacturer Kurtz Ersa is also convinced of the AM potential – to such an extent that the company recently entered the machine market for additive manufacturing with the Alpha 140.

Ready for 3D printing: The Alpha 140, the result of the cooperation between the two companies Laser Melting Innovations (LMI) and Kurtz Ersa
Ready for 3D printing: The Alpha 140, the result of the cooperation between the two companies Laser Melting Innovations (LMI) and Kurtz Ersa

The Alpha 140 is particularly characterized by the fact that it combines innovative additive manufacturing technology with simple operation at low system costs. This makes the Alpha 140 the optimum solution for the tool-free production of metal parts, particularly suitable for small and medium-sized companies. The new system is extremely interesting for companies from the mold and tool making industry, as the Alpha 140 is the perfect system for quickly and cost-effectively mapping complex structures – such as molds with internal, near-contour cooling – with maximum geometrical freedom.

The 3D printer demonstrates its strengths particularly in the case of small batch sizes, because it saves on costly tooling. As a result, it is also attracting the attention of universities and research institutes. With its concept of “simple”, “economical”, and “open”, the 3D printer meets the market demand for lightweight construction, special materials, customization, small batches, and limitless geometric freedom for the realization of completely new shapes. During development, the engineers dispensed with high-maintenance machine components, kept the system price low thanks to a user-centric machine layout, and relied on a wide range of usable metal materials by means of freely variable process parameters. The Alpha 140 thus marks the perfect entry into metallic 3D laser printing at the best price-performance ratio.

Optimized production process

Inert gas and axis system of the Alpha 140
Inert gas and axis system of the Alpha 140

Technically, the Alpha 140 relies on a fiber-coupled diode laser with 140 watts of power and thus offers optimal properties for precise processing of numerous materials. The focal diameter of 140 µm enables the production of fine details and thin wall thicknesses. Layer thicknesses between 30 µm and 90 µm allow a component and material-dependent optimized manufacturing process. The round build envelope of the Alpha 140 measures 140 mm in diameter and allows a maximum build height of 200 mm. The spindle-driven axis system allows high positioning and repeat accuracy of the laser system. With a footprint of just 1.70 x 0.95 m, the compact “plug and produce” machine is predestined for space-saving use in production environments and research laboratories – the connection by means of a cold appliance plug and optional air cooling ensures extremely simplified installation.

The components produced on the Alpha 140 achieve strengths comparable to those of conventional “Laser Powder Bed Fusion” (LPBF) machines and densities >99.5 percent but are up to 80 % more economical. The Kurtz Ersa Alpha 140, engineered by Laser Melting Innovations, thus makes a significant contribution to the European Green Deal, which has set itself the goal of a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Available materials and parameter sets for the Alpha 140 include stainless steels such as 1.4404, nickel-based alloys (e.g. IN625 and IN718), tool steel and aluminum alloys (AlSi7Mg). The open system design also enables in-house material qualifications and the development of new types of materials.

The gantry-mounted laser optics enable a constant focus diameter throughout the entire installation space. A laminar shielding gas flow creates optimum process conditions for the inert welding process and for protecting the laser optics. Optionally, a nitrogen generator integrated into the machine housing enables self-sufficient operation without an additional external shielding gas supply, thus reducing process costs and the necessary peripherals. And because the Alpha 140 is designed as a complete 3D printer, it also has its own software for data preparation – either via preset parameter sets without prior knowledge or via extensive manual influence – from component design to simulation and generation of support structures to data preparation, the entire AM workflow can be mapped in it.

Strong cooperation: LMI and Kurtz Ersa

Cooperation partners (from left to right) – LMI: Founder Dawid Ziebura, Sven Scheres, Steffen Stahlhacke, Founder Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johannes Henrich Schleifenbaum and Kurtz Ersa: CEO Rainer Kurtz, Head of Technology Victor Romanov, Managing Director Uwe Roth
Cooperation partners (from left to right) – LMI: Founder Dawid Ziebura, Sven Scheres, Steffen Stahlhacke, Founder Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johannes Henrich Schleifenbaum and Kurtz Ersa: CEO Rainer Kurtz, Head of Technology Victor Romanov, Managing Director Uwe Rothaug

The Alpha 140 was developed by Laser Melting Innovations GmbH & Co. KG, a spin-off from the Aachen High Tech Campus. Around RWTH Aachen University, 3D printing has been an essential part of development activities for many years. Thus, the LMI team in Aachen also has a sound expertise of more than 20 years in the field of additive manufacturing. “In Aachen, the cradle of metal additive manufacturing, more than 200 top developers, specialists and young talents are continuously working on the topic of additive manufacturing. In addition to processes and machines, we have a particular focus on the benefits for industrial users, from component design through 3D printing and post-processing to the ready-to-use component. Here, we have direct access to a wealth of experience of more than 1,000 person-years. We make this available to our partners,” says Professor Johannes Henrich Schleifenbaum, one of the LMI founders, describing the advantage of the location in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The rapid market launch was achieved through cooperation with the machine manufacturer Kurtz Ersa, which has access to a worldwide sales and service network. “3D metal printing complements our relationships in the manufacturing scene and fits perfectly with our strategy ‘GLOBAL. AHEAD. SUSTAINABLE.’, with which we present ourselves as technology leaders in our respective markets,” explains Kurtz Ersa CEO Rainer Kurtz, who, together with Kurtz Managing Director Uwe Rothaug, is pleased with the “fantastically short ‘time to market’” of the Alpha 140. After signing the cooperation agreement in August 2020, the assembly of the first 3D printer started ten weeks later, before the first delivery took place a few days before Christmas. Other systems have been installed and are already in production, for example at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Fraunhofer Business Unit Functional Materials at the Hanau site (Institute for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategy [IWKS]), are close to the completion of the sale or have been ordered, as by the Technical University of Cologne or directly with industrial companies.

 

 

Worldwide availability with 24-hour service

The Alpha 140 is manufactured in Kreuzwertheim in Northern Bavaria at the Kurtz manufacturing plant. A 24-hour service is also available thanks to a global presence – live presentations are possible in the strategically accessible demo centers of the Kurtz Ersa Corporation, and an Alpha 140 showroom will soon open in Aachen for interested parties. The cooperation is a classic win-win situation for both companies involved: For Kurtz Ersa, the process know-how of the LMI team in the field of additive manufacturing is the key to entering the new business field. For its part, LMI, as a young technology company, uses the sales and service channels of the established machine manufacturer Kurtz Ersa as a perfect complement to the roll-out of metallic 3D printing. The Alpha 140 is a remarkable start in the broad field of additive manufacturing, which will certainly be followed by further steps.

3D printing is revolutionizing many areas of application thanks to its particularly high degree of geometric freedom – here is an example from Hans Erlenbach Entwicklungen GmbH
3D printing is revolutionizing many areas of application thanks to its particularly high degree of geometric freedom – here is an example from Hans Erlenbach Entwicklungen GmbH

Alpha 140: Montage and Showroom in Wiebelbach

 
 
 

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