Introduction to 3D Metal Printing
3D metal printing is an additive manufacturing process used for creating functional metal parts which contain the functionality of production intent. 3D metal printing process is based on sintering or melting metal powder to form a 3d object layer-by-layer using a CAD (computer-aided design) model. This automated process is ideal for developing components and structures of prototypes that would otherwise prove too difficult or costly to make with traditional methods. At the same time, 3D metal printing is expected to see a massive rise in the coming years. It is because of a great deal of demand in the aerospace, defence, healthcare, automobile, consumer, and educational industry.
The sectors mentioned above can use 3D metal printed parts for multiple purposes. These may include conceptual models, end-use products, fixtures, tooling, extrusion profile verification, concept visualisation, and form/fit/functional analysis.
Why Choose 3D Metal Printing?
3D Metal Printing holds a colossal set of advantages that make it the ideal choice in several scenarios compared to standard industrial methods. These advantages have led to the steady rise of the process in several industries and brought forth several applications where it could be utilised. Notably, the following features and benefits stand out.
3D metal printing is ideal for manufacturing complex parts that would be difficult to recreate using standard manufacturing processes. Small details and intricate features are more accurately and efficiently accomplished.
It is a financially savvy solution for small to medium-sized parts in the limited lead time, making them appropriate for form/fit/functional testing.
The parts designed to be 3D metal printed can be further machined, polished, painted, or processed to achieve a high level of surface finish.
The physical, manufacturing, and processing properties of the parts manufactured with 3D metal printing are excellent.
3D metal printing can be used to work with otherwise tricky materials, such as metal alloys and metal super alloys. They can also be stable under harsh environmental conditions.
Technologies Used For 3D Metal Printing.
Now that we are aware of the benefits, 3D metal printing has to offer. Next, we should know how it is done. Essentially, 3D metal printing refers to a laser-based technology that utilises powdered metals. Two powder bed fusion-based methods are most widely used to work with metals in 3D printing. These are SLM (selective laser melting) and DMLS (direct metal laser sintering). They are extensively available and have many applications. Let's look into them.
SLM for 3D Metal Printing.
Selective laser melting (SLM) makes use of an intense laser that scans and melts the material and helps them bond together to form the desired part. With the printing being done in an inert gas environment, the parameters of the results are nearly identical to the ones obtained from casting. SLM is primarily used to work with titanium and aluminium metals. These metals provide durability and are great for mechanical parts such as propellers and gears. Besides automotive and aerospace, the medical industry also makes use of this technique to develop equipment.
DMLS for 3D Metal Printing.
Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) is the more popular of the two processes. In this process, a laser sinters the metal powder layer by layer to form the object. The process can cause stainless steel (SS) to reach nearly 3000 degrees F but does not melt it. Maraging steel, cobalt-chromium, aluminium AlSi10Mg, titanium Ti6Al4V, and Inconel 625 are amongst the wide range of metal alloys used in this process. Prototypes and finished parts alike, specifically those with undercuts, cavities, or draft angles, are made using this process. Meanwhile, it is utilised in the medical industry in devices, instruments, functional prototypes, and tools.
Common Misconceptions about 3D Metal Printing.
3D metal printing has the possibility of large-scale implantation and application in modern-day industry. However, it still is limited to specific organisations and manufacturers only. That is because many myths persist in society, which gives people a wrong impression of technology. The most common confusions and misconceptions regarding 3D metal printing are below:
The costs of metal printers and their processes are too high.
Most metal additive manufacturing methods work in the same fashion.
Only high-end applications are what drive the market demand for 3D metal printing.
The parts made using metal 3D printing are comparatively inferior and lower in quality than those manufactured using traditional methods.
The reuse of metal powder also deteriorates the quality and properties of the part.
Metal 3D printers can print only small-sized parts.
How to Overcome These Misconceptions?
The possible solution to eradicate these myths is to make product developers aware of the realistic capabilities and limitations of 3d metal printing technology. It will allow 3D metal printers to be a commoner and integral part of manufacturing society. People should know what exactly this technology can do and what it can't, with the given technological advances it has gone through. With more people accepting the technology, learning about it, and adding up to its market, 3D metal printing will become a mainstream technology within the next few years.
Why not talk about the futuristic global market value in numbers here? Well, it's estimated that the worldwide market for 3D metal printing will be worth more than six billion dollars before the end of this decade.
The Australian-based rapid prototyping company ArpTech offers the finest 3D metal printing, amongst several other services like CNC machining and injection moulding. We have more than 5000+ happy and satisfied customers from independent designers to large Global enterprises. The company working to provide 3D metal printed, quick, cost-effective, and aesthetic prototypes for the past two decades is the best choice you could opt for. Go ahead and get in touch with us for more, or visit our website to have a more point-by-point view of what we have to bring to the table.