toolcraft was commissioned to manufacture components for the launcher unit of Rheinmetall's TSWA (turret-independent secondary weapon system), using the complete process chain of additive manufacturing. Before beginning production, toolcraft prepared the manufacturing data for the additive powder process in aluminium using a laser. The semi-finished products for the structural support and gate were then additively manufactured using a blasting process, before undergoing heat treatment in a vacuum furnace to ensure they had the specified material characteristics. The individual components were joined in the laser metal deposition (LMD) machine by means of laser welding with the addition of powder. And finally, they were finish-machined to ensure they had the required tolerances. The way in which each component is segmented into sub-components which can be additively manufactured individually was taken into account by Rheinmetall during the design phase. toolcraft used a range of quality assurance measures for the entire manufacturing process and the finished assembly, ensuring that the requirements of the DIN 2303 manufacturer certification for the production of defence-related products by means of laser-additive manufacturing and the LMD process were met at all times. The company even produced a special copper nozzle for the LMD process on one of its in-house powder bed systems, using a green laser.
Rheinmetall AG chose the innovative additive manufacturing method as it meets the following criteria:
- Weight reduction thanks to thin-walled and dense structures
- Compact due to the ability to shape components as required
- Integrated functions
- Long-term availability of replacement parts
- Fast iteration loops to ensure the structural support can be developed quickly