Fraunhofer ILT and Trumpf team up to advance laser metal deposition 3D printing

The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) and German machine tool manufacturer Trumpf have signed a cooperation agreement to accelerate the transfer of technology to industry within the field of laser metal deposition.

The partners will combine their respective expertise in laser system technologies and application-specific know-how to carry out research and development into improving the productivity, speed, materials, and processes of laser material deposition for their customers.

“Our core business is developing application-adapted processes and system technology components,” said Dr Thomas Schopphoven, Head of the Laser Material Deposition Competence Area at Fraunhofer ILT. “The basis for this is our 30 years of experience in laser material deposition – in applications we have developed for a wide variety of industries.”

Advancing laser material deposition
Fraunhofer ILT originally developed its patented Extreme High-Speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA) 3D printing technology in 2017. EHLA is the institute’s take on high-volume directed energy deposition (DED), and was initially offered as a modular toolhead that could be integrated into gantries and robotic arms. The institute describes its EHLA technology as a more efficient and environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional cladding processes.

Since the technology’s release, Fraunhofer ILT has worked with several partners to develop a next-generation version of the process that is better suited to 3D printing applications. In 2020, gripper manufacturer Bilsing Automation integrated EHLA into its workflow to produce a number of its proprietary products, including flexible grippers, handling devices, and forming tools.

Shortly after, Fraunhofer ILT worked with the Max-Planck-Institute for Iron Research (MPIE) to use EHLA to produce a 3D printed composite material with comparable characteristics to that of Damascus steel, and later announced its EHLA technology had been adopted by manufacturing service bureau Toolcraft to repair and modify rotationally symmetrical components before coating them with corrosion and wear protection.

In October last year, Fraunhofer ILT began conducting a new set of research projects using the latest version of its EHLA technology, EHLA 3D, in partnership with Germany-based engineering firm Ponticon. Currently, EHLA 3D can process parts weighing up to 25kg, at speeds of around 200 metres per minute, with a very high precision of 100 microns.

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