By Olivia Cahoon
Part 2 of 2
Three-dimensional (3D) printing allows manufacturers to reduce costs, create opportunities for design innovation, and lower the risk of trial and error. In industrial industries such as aerospace, firearms, and tooling, 3D metal manufacturing is popular due to its durable, cost-effective parts.
Established in 2013, i3D MFG started with four employees in Bend, OR. The company originally offered direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) from a 5,000 square foot workspace.
With 15 employees, i3D now offers 3D engineering, EOS full parameter recipe development, and production manufacturing. It specializes in advancements in DMLS metal powder development, process refinement, and production applications. The company operates out of a 15,000 square foot workspace and offers its services to Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.
i3D manufactures rocket engines and UAV parts, missile parts, suppressors, and medical devices. In 2014, the company started 3D printing with one EOS M 280 device. “We have always used EOS DMLS equipment because it is the highest quality,” says Erin Sone, CEO, i3D.
Today, 95 percent of the company’s work is 3D printed. It now uses seven 3D printers including the EOS M 290 and EOS M 400-4. The EOS M 290 offers a build volume of 250x250x325 millimeters. Its powerful 400W fiber laser makes it well suited for manufacturing complex DMLS components.
Designed for industrial applications, the EOS M 400-4 offers a large building volume of 400x400x400 millimeters combined with four lasers for up to four times higher productivity. Its four 400W lasers operate in a 250×250 millimeter square each with an overlap area of 50 millimeters. The device maintains a high build rate of 100 cubic centimeters per hour.
Praxair Surface Technologies TruForm metal powders are used for quality, traceability, and availability. i3D offers a large selection of DMLS standard metal powders including custom powders, Inconel, stainless steel, and titanium.
With its EOS 3D printers, i3D primarily creates rocket engine parts, drone parts, defense industry projects, and production items. “The industry is moving quickly into metals, looking for larger scale machines and moving from rapid prototyping into full production,” adds Sone.
EOSPRINT 2 is part of the production process. It is a CAM tool that allows CAD data to be optimized for EOS systems. Included in EOSPRINT 2, EOS ParameterEditor module offers developers a large and open tool set containing exposure strategies and up to 258 parameters. Paired with data preparation software, EOSPRINT 2 offers an extensive additive manufacturing CAM environment for engineers that want production-ready designs.
Almost all 3D metal parts require some type of post-finishing process to remove supports and provide surface finishing. For its finishing, i3D offers bead blasting, wire electrical discharge machining (EDM), and CNC finishing. EDM is a precision manufacturing process where a desired shape is cut to hold tolerances using electric discharges across a fine wire.
With its 3D printing software and equipment, i3D manufactures metal parts from 20 to 40 micron powders with 400W lasers that fuse micro-layers of fine metal together to create complex geometries from 3D design tools. DMLS parts are typically characterized as having strength, hardness, and densities comparable to cast and forged parts in comparable metals. The metal powder is melted and forged continuously to create 99.9 percent uniquely uniform densities throughout the parts.
3D is the Future
According to Sone, the benefits of using 3D printers in a manufacturing setting is the ability to produce complex parts that traditional manufacturing cannot. “This includes the ability to create organic shapes and conformal cooling lines in exotic materials that are cost prohibitive using subtractive purposes.”
Despite i3D’s success with 3D printing, it’s still a new and complex manufacturing process. For example, high temperatures and complex geometries create stress and build issues. “Most projects are proof of concept and require iterative steps before a final production piece is attained,” comments Sone.
Traditional manufacturing techniques are typically a subtractive method. If comparing a subtractive part to additive, Sone believes additive is slower and costlier. “However, the best additive projects cannot be made subtractively or are so complex that subtractive methods are much more expensive than additive.”
For complex parts or for parts that benefit from being made from exotic metal, Sone says additive allows for designs that create vast efficiencies in combining multi-piece assemblies and printing them as one piece, or using organic geometries or conformal cooling lines. “Additive is often less expensive for metals like titanium, copper, and super nickel alloys.”
Companies manufacturing medical devices to rocket engines seek cost-efficient methods for producing prototypes and replacement materials. 3D printing, specifically industrial-grade additive manufacturing is well suited for these requests. i3D continues to be a leader in DMLS metal power 3D printing and offers its clients solution for complex, high-value parts.
Oct2018, Industrial Print Magazine