Determination of the Level of Automation for Additive Manufacturing Process Chains
Industrial manufacturing is confronted with increased cost pressure due to international competition. The use of automation solutions can help to optimally exploit existing potentials and react to market competitors. In particular, increased productivity and shorter cycle times lead to reduced costs and increased capabilities. New manufacturing technologies can also help to achieve an advantage over market competitors. In recent years, additive manufacturing technologies in particular have gained in importance. Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) is an additive manufacturing (AM) technology that enables the production of highly complex and individualized metal components. A significant disadvantage of L-PBF is the required post-processing of additive manufactured parts, which is necessary to remove auxiliary structures, separate the workpieces from the substrate plate and obtain high precision as well as low surface roughness. Automation of these post-processes is a crucial factor for increasing productivity and thus for further industrialization of L-PBF. In order to exploit this potential optimally, the level of automation has to be determined. In this paper, a methodology is presented that enables the determination of the level of automation for the additive process chain with L-BPF. The focus is on evaluating the level of automation of individual manufacturing technologies due to consideration of technology-specific requirements and characteristics. The scope of the analysis is not limited to technologies; handling processes are also taken into account. A differentiated e valuation of the level of automation is enabled by the definition of technology-specific and cross-technology sub-tasks.