3D metal printing is disrupting traditional manufacturing and opening up new possibilities for designers. It’s no longer just a prototyping technology – it’s capable of producing functional parts for production use.
However, it is important to understand that not all metal 3D printers and materials are created equal. There are several types of metal 3D printing, ranging from using high-energy lasers to fuse loose powder to extruding bound metal powder filaments.
Powder Bed Melting
Powder bed melting, also known as Selective Laser Melting or DMLS and Direct Metal Laser Sintering, is one of the main types of metal 3D printing. It uses a laser or electron beam to melt the powder particles, bonding them together and building parts layer by layer.
With this method, the printed parts can have very large hollow sections if desired and still retain their mechanical properties. However, these large areas will require the creation of supporting structures to prevent warping. These are usually built in a lattice pattern and can be expensive to produce. Moreover, they can add to the part’s overall cost due to the materials used for their construction.
Direct Energy Deposition
Direct energy deposition is one of the primary metal 3D printing technologies. Unlike PBF, which uses a hot-plate to melt the powdered material into a solid, DED deposits the material in layers. This results in a more accurate part, with less shrinkage and warping during cooling. This makes DED suitable for producing complex, accurate parts for a variety of industries.
A growing number of metal 3D printer processes use materials that are bonded powder-based rather than pure metal wires or filaments. These types of processes include Binder Jetting and Bound Metal Deposition (BMD).
As the name suggests, this process uses an adhesive binder to build up layers of powdered material. Typically, these materials are ceramic-based or metal-based. In addition to being cost-effective, this type of printing is very scalable and production-capable.
Another advantage is that this type of printing can create very dimensionally accurate parts with mechanical properties that are comparable to traditionally manufactured metal components. In addition, the fact that the printing takes place at room temperature means that there is no warping or distortion of the printed part.
One of the biggest challenges with this type of printing is that the parts produced are porous. While this adds complexity and cost to the print, it also provides a solution to the problem of low-permeability of parts built using this type of printing.
The most commonly used method of metal 3D printing services, DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) uses a high-powered laser to melt and fuse layers of powdered metal into solid parts. The resulting pieces are 99% dense, making them as strong as forged pieces and allowing for designs with complex geometries and internal features that can’t be made by traditional machining methods.
The process creates components that are able to resist cracking and can withstand temperatures up to 850°C, which is the melting point of aluminum. It’s also possible to use the DMLS process with other metals, including titanium and cobalt chrome.
Stratification is the process of dividing data into categories or groups so that it can be analysed individually. It is used when there are too many differences in a sample to examine all of it at once, and can be used to identify and control existing problems. It can also be used to identify trends and patterns in the data that are not obvious when looking at the whole picture. For example, if a company wants to study the buying habits of its customers, it may choose 100 of them at random to study and determine the results.
Cold spray is a solid-state additive manufacturing technique for coating metals, alloys, and other materials without melting or sintering. This enables the application of coatings with properties that differ from the base metal, including high corrosion resistance, hardness, and ductility.
On impact with the workpiece surface, the sprayed metal powder particles have enough kinetic energy to plastically deform and form interlinking splats that form a thin, cohesive coating. The kinetic energy of the sprayed particles also drives chemical bonding between the deposited powder and the substrate.
The research will also investigate the use of structured-light inspection to ensure a part meets quality standards in real-time during the print process.
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