By Melissa Donovan
The April issue of Industrial Print magazine includes a feature article on three-dimensional (3D) metal printing and its merits in the manufacturing space. Aerospace, automotive, medical, jewelry, and consumer product manufacturers recognize the potential of 3D metal printing in their production practices. Reasons include design flexibility, diminished inventory, enhanced environmental impact, and supply chain sustainability.
Here we’ve included information on some of the main players in the 3D metal printing industry.
3DEO’s printers use some of the finest metal powder in the industry. The printers can vary layer thicknesses anywhere from 50 to 250 microns depending on the geometry of the part and the speed required of the print. Nominal layer thickness is 100 microns.
The second step of the print is spraying the layer with binder. A proprietary spray system saturates the entire layer with binder. This novel spray technology creates uniformity and precise control over depth of penetration previously impossible by inkjet technology used in binder jetting.
The third and final step in the printing process is to cut the new layer with up to eight micro end mills. These cutters define the perimeter of the part and any internal features of the part on a layer-by-layer basis. These three steps—spread, spray, cut—are repeated as many times as necessary to build the entire part.
The Intelligent Layering process creates exciting new possibilities in additive manufacturing (AM). Unlike 3D printing technology that makes parts one layer at a time, 3DEO has ultimate flexibility of how to define parts in the build. The spindles can cut many layers at the same time, improving vertical surface finish while speeding up prints. They also cut in three dimensions, building the actual geometry rather than a stair-stepped approximation of the geometry.
When the print is complete, the printer notifies Jarvis, 3DEO’s factory OS, and the build is automatically ejected from the printer. Within seconds, the printer begins its next print job in queue. All of this is made possible by 3DEO’s end-to-end integrated technology, the Manufacturing Cloud.
EOS EOS offers multiple printers designed for 3D metal printing. These include the EOS M 290, which is a mid-sized and multi-talented device for qualified 3D printed parts. Its robust system design and powerful 400 watt fiber laser deliver reliably high performance, day and day out. The EOS M 300-4 is highly productive, flexible, and scalable. Boost productivity for industrial applications by up to five times with the flexible EOS M 300-4. EOS M 400 offers exceptional quality at high volume. It is ideal for serial manufacturing of large metal parts. The EOS M 400-4 is ultra-fast, ultra-productive, and the company’s flagship four-laser system. With four 400 watt lasers and a 400x400x400 millimeter build volume, the EOS M 400-4 is the ultimate productivity platform for industrial applications.
Fabrisonic’s AM technology is referred to as ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM). According the company it is a unique 3D printing technology that uses acoustic energy to merge layers of metal drawn from foil stock. The process produces true metallurgical bonds at near room temperature with full density and works with a variety of metals and metal combinations. The patented technology enables metal foil feedstock to retain their original metallurgical properties, very complex internal geometries with smooth passageways, embedding electronics without damage or overheating, and dissimilar metal monolithic structures. The distinguishing characteristic of UAM is that it is a solid-state welding process. Unlike other metallic AM technologies, melting metal feedstock does not occur, which mitigates the impact of high temperatures on material properties.
The HP Metal Jet S100 solution was launched in September 2022. This solution enables large-scale digital printing for high-quality metal parts. These 3D printed parts can accelerate the design and mass production of innovative product sectors, thus transforming industries and accelerating the transition to Industry 4.0.
HP Metal Jet enables connected factory system solutions, focuses on data flow across touch points, and improves operational uptime. The S100 Solution provides industrial production capability, integrated workflow, as well as subscription and service offerings, providing previously unprecedented technical and business advantages for customers. The system modularity also enables the build units to travel between four separate stations, meaning customers can run production on a continuous basis at scale for mass production.
Key advantages of HP Metal Jet technology include the ability to produce innovative designs, new geometries, density control, and designs for lightweight or consolidate metal parts, push the boundaries of what was previously possible with 3D printing.
MELD holds more than a dozen patents for its MELD technology, an innovative process for metal manufacturing, which makes the material malleable without melting, offering stronger, better quality parts.
MELD is open atmosphere, meaning no special chambers or vacuums are needed. This flexibility not only means less equipment and cost, but also that MELD is scalable and can make parts bigger, better, and faster than other processes.
The MELD process is unlike any other and opens up the possibilities of working with materials that were once off the table and can even allow customers to work with unweldable metals.
The Multec M500 Metal is a filament-based machine that was developed to achieve great results with metal filaments. The big benefit of this machine is that it comes with a patented multi-hotend toolhead. This means the machine can be used for metals and regular thermoplasts.
Prima Additive produces industrial systems for metal AM with two laser technologies—powder bed fusion and direct energy deposition. For powder bed fusion the two platforms are the Print 150 and the Print 300 families. The 150 family is available with a single infrared or green laser, the Print Sharp 150 and Print Green 150, respectively; a dual laser solution with two infrared lasers or with an infrared laser and a green laser, the Print Genius 150 and Print Genius 150 Double Wavelength, respectively.
The 300 family is available with one, two, or four lasers. What makes these configurations unique, in addition to their innovative laser configurations, is their flexibility, given by the open parameters, a solution that makes them particularly suitable for process and new material development activities.
Four products use direct energy deposition. The IANUS robotic cell, presented at the end of last year, and the solutions based on Cartesian systems LASERDYNE 811, LASERDYNE 795, and Laser Next 2141. The main characteristics of these solutions are, as far as the five-axis solutions are concerned, their large work area combined with high productivity, while the IANUS robotic solution presents unparalleled versatility, allowing two processes within the same system, to choose between powder direct energy deposition, wire direct energy deposition, laser welding—proximity or remote, and laser hardening.
Rapidia’s metal 3D printing solution is based on material extrusion, similar to systems that use metal-loaded plastic filaments. It shares the advantages of material extrusion 3D printing—safe with no loose powders, low cost to operate, and unlimited geometry as there is no need to de-powder the part after printing.
Rapidia’s special sauce is its feedstock—a water-based metal paste. This unique feedstock approach replaces most polymers that would be in a metal filament with water, which evaporates from the part during printing. Ordinarily, the polymers in a metal filament need to be removed before sintering the part to full density. If not, those polymers would cause the part to melt into a plastic puddle long before the metal begins to sinter. While competitors require a lengthy chemical debinding or thermal debinding step, Rapidia’s solution skips this. The print-to-part time is less than half of other metal material extrusion solutions. Rapidia’s system is also able to make part sections of any thickness.
Sharebot offers the MetalOne, a direct metal laser sintering 3D printer, an open system designed for research that lets users change spot size, laser speed, and power as well as precisely control printing paths.
TRUMPF laser powder bed printers are different from a lot of manufacturers in that the company manufactures its own laser optics that go into the machines, whereas a lot of the other manufacturers buy them in. This gives a huge advantage in pushing the limits of laser technology further—the company already understands all the physics that go along with it.
3D Metal Printing
A variety of proprietary technologies are available for those looking to 3D print metal. The aforementioned companies represent a great sampling of options.
Apr2023, Industrial Print Magazine