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A Guide to Metal Additive Manufacturing


Metal 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that produces metallic components using a layering technique. The items are made either by melting, welding or sintering metallic powders over each other to produce a functional, final product. Some metal powders used in digital manufacturing include;

  • Aluminium

  • Titanium

  • Steel

  • Inconel

  • Tungsten

Metal alloys and precious metals like gold, platinum, palladium and silver may be used, as well.

Additive metal fabrication techniques and processes can empower businesses to achieve cost-effective, fast and reliable production. The approach may also help manufacturers produce high-value items with intricate designs using rapid prototyping applications.

This article expounds more on the industrial applications and types of metal fabrication technologies available in the market. We will also look into the benefits and challenges of the fabrication technique.

Applications of metal 3D printing

Metal 3D printing can cater to numerous industries. For instance, aerospace and defense engineers may use it to manufacture lightweight components that improve an aircraft’s performance and enhance its tactical advantages. Medics and dentists can also use it to create customized drug delivery systems, surgical equipment and prosthetics. Additionally, rapid prototyping techniques enable construction experts to design, iterate and modify project ideas before implementation. Generally, additive manufacturing can be a real game changer in innovative product development.

Types of metal fabrication technologies

There are various approaches to digitally fabricating high-quality metallic parts. They include Binder Jetting, Direct Metal Laser Sintering(DMLS), Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Wax Casting and more.
An industry leader like Sculpteo can provide the following services:

Binder Jetting

Binder jetting is a method of metal additive manufacturing. In this process, 3D printers use a liquid binding agent to selectively bind thin layers of metal powder together to fabricate unique, high-value components. It compares closely to traditional paper printing, especially in simplicity and speed.
The binder jetting technique may be the perfect solution for creating large quantities of highly dense precision parts. Businesses can use it to produce distinctive metal pieces with a smooth surface finish. However, because it has average mechanical qualities, the method is more suitable for making decorative items like jewellery rather than technical parts.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

In Direct metal laser sintering, 3D printers melt and fuse metal powder filaments using a high-power laser beam to create objects. The process is also known as Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM), Selective Laser Melting (SLM) or Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF). It is similar to Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) but uses metal powders instead of plastic.
Direct metal laser sintering offers high production accuracy and can produce parts with complex shapes. It may be ideal for creating small tooling parts. It is also compatible with many metals and alloys.

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

Fused deposition modelling is also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF). It is a digital production approach that involves melting a polymer matrix from a filament and extruding particles using a printer head to build products layer by layer.
To begin the process, experts upload a CAD model file into the printing program to guide the production process. Afterwards, they add the polymer matrix to the additive fabrication equipment for melting. Next, the printer head extrudes the particles onto the print bed according to the scaling instructions on the CAD file. The technique uses an XYZ printing approach to stack layers over each other, eventually forming a functional item after debinding and sintering.

Wax Casting

Another way to manufacture metal parts is through wax or investment casting. For this approach, experts make objects by pouring molten metal resin on a predesigned mould. Once it cures, professionals can extract and rework the solid metal cast to make a high-quality finished product.
Wax casting may be ideal for the low-volume production of small items like luxury goods and tooling parts. It is highly customizable, and companies may use it to create versatile products with appealing designs.

Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

For EBM applications, machines use a high-energy electron beam to melt and layer metal powders over each other to create products. With the help of a guiding magnetic field, the stream of electrons can print out parts to match the specifications of a given CAD blueprint. The additive fabrication technique also takes place in a vacuum chamber to prevent the oxidation of highly reactive materials. It is similar to DMLS, only that it uses an electron beam.
Electron beam melting can produce lightweight objects that are strong and durable. It may best serve experts in the aerospace, defense, medicine and petrochemical industry sectors.

Industrialists can use computer-assisted metal fabrication to improve turnaround, reduce waste and achieve sustainable growth. The technology offers fast production speeds, vast design freedom and material flexibility.

What are the advantages of metal additive manufacturing?

Traditional metal manufacturing technologies like cutting, drawing and forging can be expensive and wasteful. In contrast, 3D printing approaches greatly benefit manufacturers looking to enhance their competitive edge. Some advantages include:

  • Design freedom and complexity
    Computerized fabrication offers designers great flexibility when forming objects with complex geometries and shapes. It has rapid prototyping technologies that allow specialists to design, iterate and modify proofs-of-concept before manufacturing.

  • Eco-friendly
    Metal additive fabrication consumes minimal resources, enabling firms to streamline inventories and workflow cycles. It may be an eco-friendly way to fabricate final end-user products with little waste. Industrialists can also leverage it to reduce their carbon emissions exponentially.

  • On-demand production
    Because of its ability to maintain digital inventories, companies can easily gain the capacity to produce objects anytime, anywhere. Additionally, digital metal manufacturing can enable entities to improve production turnaround and time-to-market.

With the right strategy and proper metal additive manufacturing machines, investors can gain much value from digital fabrication. It may be the optimal solution to achieving globalized innovation and product development in industrial workflows. Nevertheless, there are still some challenges to resolve for additive fabrication to reach its fullest potential in production.

Challenges of computerized metal fabricating equipment

  • Raw materials
    There are a few suitable material possibilities for additive fabrication. Additionally, some existing 3D printable materials still exhibit a lot of quality inconsistencies.

  • Post-processing
    Most times, experts have to clean manually, smoothen and tune 3D-printed components. The process can be time-consuming and overwhelming.

  • It can be expensive
    For businesses to make quality parts, they require high-grade equipment. The initial acquisition cost can be overwhelming, particularly for those with restricted budgets.

  • Limited expertise
    Again, owing to its novelty, there is a shortage of engineers and professionals who thoroughly understand the technology and how to use it.

Despite its shortcomings, additive metal fabrication offers many feasible value propositions. Fortunately, some additive fabrication experts, like Sculpteo, can provide top-notch 3D printing services. Engaging such professionals can help clients manoeuvre budget restrictions, post-processing hassles and raw material uncertainties.

Why Choose Sculpteo’s 3D Printing Services?

Sculpteo offers best-in-class 3D printing and digital manufacturing services. We use state-of-the-art equipment to produce items according to client specifications. Our portfolio includes additive manufacturing services like binder jetting, FDM and wax casting.
Feel free to consult us on matters concerning metal fabrication.

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