Press release: Swisslog and Concept Laser enter into strategic cooperation

Lichtenfels (Germany), Friday, 25 November 2016: The technology leader for laser melting with metals, Concept Laser, and Swisslog, a member of the KUKA Group, have entered into a strategic development partnership to deliver an innovative Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) system. This comes as part of the very latest machine technology from Concept Laser, the M LINE FACTORY, and the production scenario of the “AM Factory of Tomorrow” which lies behind it. The collaboration will see Concept Laser become the first manufacturer of machines and installations for 3D metal printing to embrace an automation solution for moving modules between the different machine units and within the production environments.


Swisslog brings its many years of expertise in the automation of material flow and intralogistics to this partnership. As a globally leading provider of flexible robotic and data-driven automated solutions for warehouses and distribution centers. Swisslog’s AGV system is regarded as a key strategic element of the new machine solution, the M LINE FACTORY from Concept Laser. Swisslog’s task is specifically to integrate a driverless transport system with smart software for fleet management and power supply to ensure that modules can be moved between different machine units or within an AM factory.


By contrast, Concept Laser is responsible for the set-up on top of the AGV in order to move powder or parts in an autonomous way. In addition, the company from Lichtenfels is also responsible for the docking including the receipt and transfer of the modules. The planned approach pursues two objectives: Firstly, the AGV system should be capable of moving modules between the machine units or within a production environment, and secondly it is all about the intralogistics in the factory for the reliable and automated supply of powder material and preparation. “With this collaboration we see the opportunity to implement our highly efficient automated solutions for smart logistics networks in production,” Said Dr. Christian Baur, CEO of Swisslog’s Warehouse and Distribution Solutions division.


Concept Laser is seeking to implement automated solutions as part of the process of manufacturing additive metal parts. Dr. Florian Bechmann, Head of Research & Development at Concept Laser said: “The ambitious concept of the M LINE FACTORY ensures a high level of automation and flexibility in 3D metal printing. The AGV system from Swisslog is the next stage in the development toward consistent automation of the processes embracing the basic idea of “Industry 4.0.”


Smart factory for the 3D laser melting of metals

The background to the demand for automated systems is the separation of production and processing units. The new machine architecture from Concept Laser, the M LINE FACTORY means that it is possible to arrange the units physically separate from each other. This now enables processes that previously had to take place sequentially to run in parallel, which ultimately saves both time and money in the production of additive metal parts.


The production unit, known as the M LINE FACTORY PRD, also includes three separate, independent modules for the powder supply, the part structure and the powder overflow. The modules are moved back and forth within the M LINE FACTORY PRD and the processing unit, the M LINE FACTORY PRD, using a tunnel system. The intention is that in the future the storage of powder or even downstream workstations should also be incorporated in an automated fashion. Such an integrated production scenario, which Concept Laser is presenting with the “AM Factory of Tomorrow,” consistently implements the vision of “Industry 4.0” in respect of the demand for automation.