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A Guide to Metal 3D Printing

What Is Metal 3D Printing?

Metal 3D printing is a manufacturing process that creates complex parts. Healthcare, automotive, and aerospace industries use 3D printing metal to get products fast without hurting their budget. They will have to spend more on the conventional manufacturing process. Also, metal 3D printing has witnessed many improvements to create better solutions for different industries. Now, it is the most popular method in the manufacturing process. In addition to this, metal 3D technologies can create prototypes and even the finished product.

metal 3d printing

The best part is that a metal 3D printing service does not focus on a single technology. Yes, the process involves different types of technologies. All the technologies will have some specific requirements. Yes, the term metal 3D printing applies to many technology families. It is a broad concept and covers many technologies and processes. In a simpler term, metal 3D printing produces metal products layer by layer with some different methods. The process involves sintering, melting, and finally welding. All these come together in the metal 3D printing process.

Most Common Metal 3D Printing Technologies

As stated earlier, the process is not about particulate technology. There will be many different technologies, and all the technologies will have some specific manufacturing requirements. The most popular technologies are the Direct Metal Laser Sintering or DMLS, Laser Metal Sintering or LMS, and Electron Bean Melting.

DMLS

DMLS is the most popular technology in metal printing. Yes, many manufacturing industries consider this metal 3D technology. The technology will involve a few steps. It will start with metal powder sintering, and then it will go through layer by layer, and finally, it will form the object. While going through all these steps, the stainless steel material will reach 3000 °F temperature. Even if it uses a high temperature, the material will not melt. Manufacturers use some specific types of material in the DMLS technology. Some widely used materials are maraging steel, cobalt-chromium, titanium, Ti6Al4V, Inconel 625, and aluminum AlSi10Mg.

The DMLS technology is the best for manufacturing and prototyping the finished mechanical parts. The technology can be ideal for making different parts with undercuts, draft angles, and cavities. The objects are helpful in many instruments, medical devices, tools, and functional prototypes.

SLM

Selective Laser Melting is another popular technology in metal 3D printing. As the name of the technology suggests, it will melt the material, unlike the previous technology. The technology will be effective in an immobile gas environment. All the credit goes to its unique requirements. This 3D print technology has some limits that make it similar to the process produces with casting. Also, this method will have some limitations. It can be helpful to manufacture parts from aluminum and titanium. As stated earlier, all the technologies will have some specific demands. Also, it will not be possible to use all the technologies on all materials. Hence, manufacturers consider the material and parts while deciding on the technology.

SLM technology makes the end product durable. When it comes to products, SLM technology can create mechanical parts that include propellers and gears. The medical, aerospace, and automotive industries use those parts.

BEM

Electron Beam Melting is another metal 3D printing technology. This one is much appreciated, like the previous two. Also, you will find the process similar to the SLM. However, it uses electron beams instead of the laser. The difference makes SLM a better technology for creating some specific parts. When it comes to the BEM technology, it offers more precise and faster results compared to the SLM. However, the differences will not be so noticeable. The 3D prints are solid compared to other printing technologies. BEM technologies are the most useful for manufacturing cobalt and titanium objects. When it comes to applications, these parts can be effective for many products. A few of them are space missiles, engine components, and aircraft.

These are the most popular metal 3D printing technologies. All of them can help to manufacture metal objects fast and more precisely. However, there are many other metal 3D printing technologies. They might not be as effective as SLM, EBM, and DMLS. But they can create some specific metal objects. Some of them are selective laser sintering, binder jetting, and laser metal deposition.

How Does Metal 3D Printing Work?

The basic process for the fabrication will be the same for DMLS and SLM. First, they will fill the build chamber with inert gas. It will minimize metal powder oxidation. After this, they will heat the gas to reach optimal temperature. Also, they will spread a thin layer of the powder over the platform. During the process, a high-power laser will scan the component’s cross-section. It will melt the metal particles and create the next layer. It will check the entire area of the model and build a solid part.

After completing the scanning process, the build platform will move downwards with one layer thickness. After this, the recoater will use the metal powder to create another thin layer. The process will repeat until the end to produce the whole part.

After the building process, the parts will summarize in the metal powder fully. Also, they will use the same part material to create the support structure. However, it will require alleviating the warping and distortion. The processing temperature will cause warping, and they will have to mitigate it. Once the bin cools down to room temperature, they will remove the excess powder manually. After this, they will heat treat the parts on the build platform. The heat treatment process will remove any residual stress. They will detach the components from the build plate by cutting, wire EDM, or machining.

Benefits and Limitations of Metal 3D Printing Part

Metal 3D printing can be a perfect solution for complex shapes. However, it will have some downsides. Yes, metal 3D printing will have some strengths and weaknesses. The process is the best for manufacturing intricate parts. But it might not be an affordable solution for creating other objects. You cannot think of large-scale production with metal 3D printing. Here are the advantages and limits of metal 3D printing.

Benefits of Metal 3D Printing

A metal 3D printing service can create complex parts at a faster rate. But the traditional manufacturing method will require more time. In addition to quick solutions, the outcome will be cheaper. The conventional manufacturing process will demand both time and money. Also, one cannot expect the best result with the traditional method. With a suitable metal 3D printing technology, manufacturers can produce the best products with small details.

They can have every detail during assembly. As a result, they can save time and money in the end. Also, metal 3D printing technologies can create complex parts in lighter weights without compromising the strength and usability of the product. For this unique quality, metal 3D printing is in great demand in the healthcare and aerospace industry.

Additionally, metal 3D printing will not waste material. Therefore, the manufacturers will not have to spend more on the materials. In brief, metal 3D printing can be the best to produce intricate parts where the traditional technologies cannot serve the purpose.

Limits of Metal 3D Printing

The cost of the powdered metal will be more compared to the regular raw material. As a result, the end cost will be more. Also, the speed of the manufacturing will be slow while creating other objects. The metal 3D printers are not budget-friendly. Therefore, the front cost will be more. In some projects, manufacturers will have to spend on finishing and post-processing. Besides, the precision and tolerance will be lower compared to the CNC machining. The 3D printing metal will require a heat treatment to minimize the inner stress of the final object.

In addition to the above, the metal 3D printing design is more complex compared to other manufacturing processes. Hence, it is a must to rely on an experienced manufacturer to get the best quality products. Furthermore, it is not possible to create large parts with a 3D printing metal process.

Metal 3D printing will have many impressive benefits. However, you cannot overlook its downsides. Metal 3D printing cannot manufacture large parts. Also, the process will be time-consuming, and the expense will be more for other objects.

Applications of Metal 3D Printing

3D metal printing is more popular now than ever. Many industries rely on these technologies to create small and complex objects. The automotive, aerospace, and healthcare sectors consider metal 3D printing manufacturing to produce complicated parts. 3D metal printing can create rocket motors and aircraft components at a lower cost. When it comes to the healthcare industry, 3D printing helps to create implants and similar medical devices. Also, 3D printing is effective in the marine sector.

Conclusion

The metal 3D printing process uses different technologies to create bespoke and complex parts at a lower price. However, the traditional manufacturing method will require more time and money to create the end product. Also, 3D printing will reduce the cost of support structures. The parts of the 3D metal printing will have impressive mechanical properties as well. Besides, the metal 3D printing process uses metal superalloys and metal to create intricate objects.

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