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Optomec, a privately-held supplier of additive manufacturing systems including its patented Aerosol Jet Systems for printed electronics and LENS 3D printers for metal components, unveiled its latest innovation: the LENS Print Engine solution. The LENS Print Engine, a modularized version of the LENS 3D Printing system for metals, can be integrated with standard metal cutting machine tools to easily deploy additive manufacturing as a part of existing production infrastructures.

Clare Goldsberry

June 25, 2014

3 Min Read
Optomec offers ability to add laser deposition capability to any CNC machine tool

Optomec, a privately-held supplier of additive manufacturing systems including its patented Aerosol Jet Systems for printed electronics and LENS 3D printers for metal components, unveiled its latest innovation: the LENS Print Engine solution. The LENS Print Engine, a modularized version of the LENS 3D Printing system for metals, can be integrated with standard metal cutting machine tools to easily deploy additive manufacturing as a part of existing production infrastructures.

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LENS print engine in action.

Optomec patented LENS technology is a high quality, industry proven process capable of fully printing 3D metal parts, as well as selectively adding material to enhance or repair existing 3D metal parts produced using conventional manufacturing methods. The LENS technology is now available for integration with other metal-working platforms such as mills, lathes, robots, custom gantries, or table system. Metal deposition and machining can be performed in the same system allowing manufacturers to leverage capital assets and accelerate implementation of additive technology through an HMI already familiar to machinist.

The LENS Print Engine was first introduced in March at the Laser Additive (LAM) Conference, and presented again at the RAPID 2014 show. The modular LENS Print Engine components include Optomec proprietary SteadyFlow Powder Feeders, PrecisionFlow Deposition Heads, LENS Process Controls, fiber laser support, integrated tool path generation software, and full safety packages.

Combined with a CNC machine tool, the LENS Print Engine simplifies metal fabrication applications such as net shape rapid prototyping, hybrid manufacturing, full production, in-situ repair, manufacturing rework and more.

LENS Print Engine systems utilize a high-power laser together with powdered metals to build fully dense structures directly from a 3-dimensional CAD solid model. The CAD model is automatically sliced into a tool-path, which instructs the LENS machine how to build the part. The part is constructed layer-by-layer under the control of software that monitors a variety of parameters to ensure geometric and mechanical integrity.

The LENS Print Engine is housed in any suitable machine tool - a CNC mill, a lathe, a vertical or horizontal machining center, a robot, gantry, or any other suitable motion package. Optomec's LENS Print Engine Control System provides full industrial CNC control of both the LENS Print Engine components and the machine tool itself. Add appropriate safety systems, Optomec's applications knowledge and process support, and a full system can be implemented in any machine shop.

Richard Grylls, LENS general manager, told PlasticsToday that he believes this technology "has huge promise" because it is a production grade machine that can deposit material very quickly.  

Recently, Optomec was awarded a contract by America Makes, the nation's leading and collaborative partner in Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing technology research to help accelerate U.S. industrial adoption of metal additive manufacturing through the development of the LENS Print Engine. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, MachMotion, TechSolve, and the U.S. Army's Benet Laboratories are partnered with Optomec on this contract.

Grylls added that "since the announcement of the America Makes contract, Optomec has received numerous inquiries on the LENS Print Engine and is already engaged with early adopter customers."

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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