The Importance of Gas-Tight Heat Exchangers in Metal Additive Manufacturing Machines:
A Focus on Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion PBF-LB


Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, has emerged as a groundbreaking technology with applications across various industries. Among its many techniques, Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB), also referred to as Selective Laser Melting (SLM), is particularly noteworthy for its ability to produce complex and intricate metal parts. However, PBF-LB comes with unique challenges, one of which is the need for precise temperature control to ensure the quality and integrity of the final product. Gas-tight heat exchangers, such as those offered by Becker, play a crucial role in addressing this challenge. In this blog, we will delve into why gas-tight heat exchangers are indispensable in PBF-LB applications.

The Basics of Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion

Laser Powder Bed Fusion is an advanced 3D printing technique used for metal additive manufacturing. It involves the selective melting of metal powder using a high-power laser to build complex, fully dense metal parts layer by layer. During the PBF-LB process, maintaining a controlled and uniform temperature is vital to ensure the desired material properties and structural integrity of the printed components.


The Role of Heat Exchangers in PBF-LB:

Heat exchangers are essential components in PBF-LB machines, particularly in larger machines, as they help regulate the temperature in the build chamber significantly influenced by heat from various critical elements within the system. Here are some key functions that heat exchangers perform in metal AM machines:


Laser Cooling: The high-power lasers used in PBF-LB generate significant heat. Excessive heat can lead to thermal distortions in the printed part and adversely affect the printing process. Heat exchangers are responsible for efficiently removing the heat induced by the lasers from the AM machine build chamber to maintain its optimal operating temperature.


Powder Bed Cooling: In larger-size PBF-LB machines, the substrate plate is typically heated. That is a signification heat source. However, maintaining a stable temperature across the powder bed is essential to achieve uniform melting and prevent defects. Heat exchangers help regulate the temperature of the inert gas in the build chamber and subsequently, the temperature of the powder bed, ensuring consistent and high-quality prints.

Chamber Cooling: PBF-LB machines operate within sealed build chambers filled with inert gases like argon or nitrogen to prevent oxidation of the metal powder. Heat exchangers play a vital role in cooling and regulating the temperature within the chamber to ensure a controlled and stable printing environment.


The Critical Need for Gas-Tight Heat Exchangers:

In PBF-LB applications, maintaining a controlled and contamination-free environment is paramount. Any gas or fluid leakage can introduce impurities, compromise print quality, and even pose safety hazards. This is where gas-tight heat exchangers, such as those offered by Becker (specifically, the RV 1.17-0-114-04, RV 1.17-0-114-05, and RV 1.17-0-114-06), shine. Here's why they are indispensable:


Leakage Prevention: Becker's gas-tight heat exchangers are designed to have an impressively low leakage rate of <1x10-5 mbar l/s (<1x10-6 Pa m3/s) when measured with a helium leak detector. This level of tightness ensures that no oxygen from ambient air, unwanted gases, or contaminants infiltrate the build chamber, preserving the purity of the inert atmosphere and the quality of the printed parts.


Integral Design: The gas-tight sealing is integral to the complete unit, which means that every component, joint, and connection point is meticulously engineered to prevent leakage. This comprehensive approach is vital for maintaining the controlled environment necessary for a successful 3D printing process.

Inline Installation: Becker's gas-tight heat exchangers are designed to be mounted inline within the gas recirculation closed loop of the 3D printer, seamlessly integrating into the workflow. This not only enhances ease of use but also minimizes the risk of gas leaks at connection points.


Why choose Becker?

In the world of metal additive manufacturing, where precision, consistency, and quality are paramount, gas-tight heat exchangers play a vital role in ensuring the success of Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion PFB-LB applications. Becker's RV 1.17 series of heat exchangers, with their exceptionally low leakage rates and integral design, are well-suited to meet the stringent requirements of PBF-LB machines. By preventing gas leakage and maintaining a controlled environment, these heat exchangers contribute to the production of high-quality, defect-free metal parts, advancing the capabilities of additive manufacturing in various industries.


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