Is Metal 3D printing the future in a robust manufacturing evolution?
It sounds like a new manufacturing technology, right? But effectively no, it’s not! It started
to be commercialised in the 1980s. So why it took so long to pick up?
Metal 3D printing is not the same as Plastic 3D printing. It needed to go through a longer
period to be matured in engineers’ minds. It needed to prove itself prior making the big leap
to the heart of the manufacturing industry.(to read more about other 3D printing methods
please visit Our platform).
To begin with, metal 3D printing requires a perfect integration of a software, materials and a
specific design process in order to be able to print a prototype from a complex design and
strict design guidelines. That method can be used in automotive or aerospace or even
jewellery industries where the attention to detail is incomparable.
Metal 3D printing benefits
Metal 3D printing is currently being used across the world to achieve what seems impossible
with traditional machining. Extremely complex geometries can be produced in the shortest
lead times possible while at the same time reliable parts can be used straight away in the
production of a manufacturing plant. A usual example in the industry is tools. In a large scale
these tools will cost much less than using any other traditional manufacturing process.
Another benefit is that the metal 3D printing leaves zero waste. Consider that again,
especially when every single company on the planet strives to eliminate their environmental
footprint. The unused powder at the end of one 3D printing process will be used again for
the next printing job.
One more extremely important benefit especially from the production and stock controllers’
point of view is that there is no need to build up stock of any part. Depending on demand
you can 3D print any part (given you have the equipment and the materials) and with the
press of a few buttons you can have as many as you wish in the minimum manufacturing
time possible. This is an extremely time and cost effective process for any manufacturing
company. This advantage also works in benefit of the production controllers of the
intermediate processes as they can focus on other parts and assemblies.
What types of metal can be used in metal 3D printing?
Many types of metals alloys can be used in 3D metal printing. Here is a shortlist of some of
them: (to find out about our materials please feel free to visit Materials):
- Stainless steel
Applications of metal 3D printing materials
Nowadays, this list for advanced manufacturing companies can really be extensive, however aluminium -usually in alloy form- is the most widely used in metal printing. Usually it is used for a product that requires a lightweight structure, especially in aerospace and automotive sectors. On the other hand, steel which is used in many industrial applications has excellent mechanical properties and surely due to its very good surface finish is considered to be the most popular material.
In medical sector very famous is the cobalt-chromium – especially for implants – as well as titanium because of its excellent corrosion resistance and bio-compatibility in medical-implant applications.
Precious metals are mainly used in jewellery industry. Despite its high cost, gold, silver, and bronze are all used with 3D printing applications to craft some very complex geometries and pieces of jewellery. The main challenge in this industry is the surface finish of the jewellery piece.
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