Metal 3d printing aerospace


3D printing for aerospace and aviation

How does 3D printing accelerate innovation in the aerospace and aviation industry? In this article, we explain how 3D printing and additive manufacturing are commonly used in aerospace and how they improve prototyping and end-use part production for these industries.

3D printing is a clear fit for many prototyping and end-use applications within the aerospace and aviation industry. Parts produced via additive manufacturing can be stronger and lighter than those made using traditional manufacturing.

Aerospace was a very early adopter of 3D printing and still continues to contribute heavily to its development. Companies in this industry began using 3D printing in 1989, and in 2015, aerospace accounted for 16% of additive’s $4.9B global revenue. 

In this article, we explore how 3D printing has made an impact on the aerospace industry. We go over design requirements for parts used in airplanes and give design recommendations for common and more niche aerospace and aviation applications. As well, we cover the best materials for 3D printing parts for this industry and examine one of our favorite case studies.

Designers and engineers creating new products in aerospace and aviation can implement 3D printing at all stages of the design workflow. Let’s break down all the major stages.  

Design communication

Designs in the aerospace industry often begin as concept models showcasing a component of an aircraft. These are often also regularly used for aerodynamic testing, which is of critical importance for aerospace. SLA and Material Jetting are used to produce high detail and smooth scale models of aerospace designs. Accurate models allow design intention to be clearly communicated and showcase the overall form of a concept.

Validation 

Prototyping using 3D printing is now commonplace in the aerospace industry. From a full-size landing gear enclosure printed rapidly with low-cost FDM, to a high-detail, full-color control board concept model, there is a 3D printing process suited to every prototyping need. Engineering materials for 3D printing also allow for full testing and validation of prototype performance.

Pre-production

One of the areas where 3D printing has been most disruptive and valuable is the production of low-cost rapid tooling for injection molding, thermoforming and jigs and fixtures. Within aerospace, this allows for tooling to be quickly manufactured at a low cost and then used to produce low to medium runs of parts. This validation mitigates the risk when investing in high-cost tooling at the production stage and can also provide production components for quantities up to 5,000 to 10,000 parts.

Production

Production volumes in the aerospace industry can reach more than 70,000 parts per year, so 3D printing has predominantly been used in the past as a prototyping solution rather than the manufacturing of end-use parts. 

Today, improvements in the size of industrial printers, the speed they are able to print at and the materials that are available all make 3D printing a viable option for more medium-sized production runs, particularly for high-end interior build-outs.

Customization

3D printing technologies significantly impact the aerospace industry when a substantial improvement in aircraft performance can justify the cost of highly complex one-off components.

The average corporate aircraft travel 75,000 miles per month and a single component that was designed and manufactured with 3D printing can reduce air drag by 2.1%, reducing fuel costs by 5.41%. And that’s just the impact of one 3D-printed part. 

Parts can be tailored to a specific aircraft (custom, lightweight bracketry) or type of aircraft (cargo, passenger or even helicopter). 3D printing also provides part consolidation and topology optimization of many custom aerospace components. 

How is 3D printing used in aerospace engineering?


Jigs & Fixtures

Big benefits exist for several more mundane 3D printing applications, including the production of jigs and fixtures. For each individual aircraft, companies have hundreds of fixtures, guides, templates and gauges 3D printed, generally with 60 to 90 percent reductions in cost and lead time compared to other manufacturing processes.

Surrogates

Surrogates are placeholder parts used throughout production that represent components that are later installed in final assemblies. Surrogates are mainly used for training. NASA and several Air Force bases commonly use surrogate parts on the production floor.

This model of a jet engine was 3D printed for educational purposes. Image courtesy of JetX.

Mounting brackets

3D printing is commonly used to manufacture structural, low-volume metal brackets (with DMSL/SLM) that mount complex life-saving systems to the interior wall of a plane.

High detail visual prototypes

3D printing with Material Jetting is able to produce multicolor designs with a surface finish comparable to injection molding. These visually appealing models allow designers to get a greater understanding of the form and fit of a part before making important production decisions.

This highly accurate method of prototyping is also ideal for aerodynamic testing and analysis, as the surface finish you get with 3D printing is often representative of a final part.

3D printing is used routinely to manufacture aerospace components that rely on aesthetics over function, such as door handles and light housings to control wheels and full interior dashboard designs.

How does 3D printing improve aerospace manufacturing?  

Geometric design freedom

Aerospace applications make use of advanced engineering materials and complex geometries in an attempt to reduce weight while improving performance. Aerospace parts frequently include internal channels for conformal cooling, internal features, thin walls and complex curved surfaces.

3D printing is capable of manufacturing such features and allows for the fabrication of highly complex and lightweight structures with high stability. This high degree of design freedom enables the topological optimization of the parts and the integration of functional features in a single component. 

Also, certain 3D printing technologies, such as SLS, DMSL/SLM and Binder Jetting, are capable of small batch production at reasonable unit costs.

Consolidating assemblies into a single part

The design freedom you get with the 3D printing process also helps to consolidate multiple parts into a single component. This leads to weight savings (and thus cost reduction) and also reduces the amount of inventory kept at any time.

Surface finish

Having the right surface finishes is critical for the aerospace industry, and 3D-printed  parts can be post-processed to a very high surface finish. Some technologies, such as Material Jetting , can produce parts with a smooth, injection-molding-like finish off the printer with little post-processing needed. High-performance metal parts produced with DMSL/SLM or low-cost metal parts produced with Binder Jetting can also be smoothed and polished (or even CNC machined) after printing to improve their accuracy and surface finish.

Part orientation

For functional parts that will bare load, part orientation in the build platform is very important. Due to the layer-by-layer nature of 3D printing, most parts will have anisotropic mechanical properties and will be weaker in the Z direction. This should be taken into consideration during the design process.

Support structures

Support structures are used in 3D printing to provide a solid base for depositing material above overhangs or at walls with steep angles (above 45 degrees). Support is also crucial in metal 3D printing, as it anchors the parts in the build plate and protects against warping.

The areas printed on supports will have a lower surface finish and some marks from the support removal. If this is suboptimal for your parts, there are processes that do not require support structures, such as SLS and Binder Jetting.

What are the best materials for 3D printing aerospace and aviation parts?

Check out this table for a more in-depth comparison of materials used to 3D print custom aerospace and aviation components.

Application Example part Requirements Recommended Process Recommended Material
Engine compartment Tarmac nozzle bezel Heat resistant functional parts SLS Glass-filled Nylon
Cabin accessories Console control part Customized functional knobs SLA Standard Resin
Air ducts Air flow ducting Flexible ducts and bellow directors SLS Nylon 12
Full size panels Seat backs & entry doors Large parts with smooth surface finish SLA Standard Resin
Casted metal parts Brackets and door handles Metal parts casted using 3D printed patterns SLA & Material Jetting Castable Resin or Wax
Metal components Suspension wishbone & GE Jet Engine Consolidated, lightweight, functional metal parts DMLS/SLM Titanium or Aluminum
Bezels Dashboard interface End use custom screen bezels Material Jetting Digital ABS
Lights Headlight prototypes Fully transparent, high-detail models Material Jetting & SLA Transparent Resin


3D printing in practice: Printing parts for satellites

Satellite designs include geometrically specific brackets that link the body of the satellite with reflectors and feeder facilities mounted at each end. Manufacturing these critical brackets comes with two distinct challenges. 

These brackets must affix reflector and feeder facility components securely to the body of the satellite. As well, these brackets must be able to withstand the stress of insinuating against temperatures ranging from -170 to 100 degrees celsius. Very few materials can meet the requirements for the amount of stress these brackets endure.  

This satellite frame was printed using titanium. Image courtesy of Airbus.

Engineers at Airbus overcame these challenges by 3D printing these brackets using titanium. By opting to manufacture the brackets the additive way, the engineers at Airbus cut down on material waste, consolidated parts (making assembly easier and less labor-intensive), optimized part geometries and ended up with lighter-weight components. 3D printing helped reduce costs to produce parts and will save fuel over the life cycle of the satellites thanks to the lighter weight of the components.  

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Aerospace 3D Printing | Markforged

Aerospace 3D printing: the simplest way to fabricate advanced composite and metal parts

From on-demand MRO and spare parts in commercial aviation to innovation in Urban Air Mobility, aerospace industry leaders are improving responsiveness to rapidly shifting supply chains and labor availability with Additive Manufacturing.

The Digital Forge gives modern manufacturers the simplest way to build with materials they already know. Fabricate end-use carbon fiber composites unattended, overnight. Skip multi-week lead times and expedite fees for metal and composite prototypes, tools, and fixtures.

For the first time, Markforged supports ULTEM™ 9085 Filament on the Digital Forge. The FX20 3D printer can reinforce ULTEM™ Filament with continuous Carbon Fiber, bringing composite strength to an aerospace ready material. Traceable, flight-ready Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A provide another flame retardant printing solution.

*The ULTEM™ and 9085 trademarks are used under license from SABIC, its affiliates or subsidiaries.

Traceable, Purpose-Built Materials

ULTEM™ 9085 Filament, Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A are all lot-qualified, flame-retardant materials. Each is purpose-built for the requirements of the aerospace, transportation and automotive industries. FR-A materials establish lot-level material traceability and pass the test suite necessary for qualification under 14 CFR 25.853 for most 3D-printable parts. Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A as printed on the Markforged X7 are undergoing qualification through the NCAMP process.

Prepared for Regulated Applications

Markforged recognizes the advanced regulatory and functional requirements of the aerospace industry. Traceable materials, software version-locking for parts, Blacksmith in-process laser inspection, and ongoing NCAMP qualification for Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A on the X7 provide the foundations for accelerating the path from digital art to flying part.

On-Demand, Distributed Manufacturing

Turn the supply chain into a competitive advantage with distributed manufacturing at bases, airports, and maintenance depots. With a digital library and on-demand fabrication, get MRO and spare parts where and when you need them with the only additive manufacturing platform built to go anywhere.

Join industry leaders by investing in additive

“In aerospace, it's important to have quality parts we can adapt on the fly to make any changes the customer requests.”

Jeff Pike, VP of Engineering, Cabin Management Solutions (CMS)

ULTEM™ 9085 Filament: Aerospace Ready Polymer

Long used as a high value aerospace polymer, ULTEM™ 9085 Filament is now printable on the FX20. Its superior performance in flame, toxicity, and smoke (FST) tests and its high strength make it a choses material for aircraft and spacecraft alike.

The FX20 is Markforged’s new flagship 3D printer — capable of reinforcing ULTEM™ 9085 Filament with continuous Carbon Fiber.

Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A:

Traceable, Flame-Retardant Composites

Purpose-built for the requirements of the aerospace, transportation and automotive industries, FR-A materials establish lot-level material traceability and pass the test suite necessary for qualification under 14 CFR 25. 853 for most 3D-printable parts.

Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A as printed on the Markforged X7 are undergoing qualification through the NCAMP process.

Learn More about FR-A Materials

Digital Forge for 3D printed aerospace tooling

JJ Churchill trusts the precision and unmatched strength of Markforged’s fiber-reinforced Onyx material. Find out how JJC and over 100+ of the world’s top manufacturers use the Markforged platform to dream bigger and accomplish more.

Once we realized the directional strength properties available with the Markforged products, we haven’t used anything else.”

– Karan Singh, Manufacturing Engineer, JJ Churchill

Read the Case Study

Drill templates are a common tool used across many industries in manufacturing and are heavily relied on in aerospace tooling. When a drilling operation has to be performed by hand, custom tooling needs to be developed to simplify the process and make it repeatable. A drill template tool makes a cumbersome drilling operation as simple as locating the tool and then drill the hole.

Talk to an Expert

Why invest in Markforged 3D printers?

  • Secure cloud infrastructure enables on-demand manufacturing at the point of need
  • Low overhead, facilities requirements, and cost of ownership for continuous carbon fiber composite solutions
  • Cabin-quality surface finish without additional post-processing
  • Ready for decorative finishes (plating, veneer, paint)
  • NCAMP qualification is underway for traceable, flame-retardant composite printing materials Onyx FR-A and Carbon Fiber FR-A

High-value aerospace applications

  • Lightweight cabin components
  • Brackets, harnesses, and sensor mounts
  • Precision inspection tooling
  • Workholding
  • Functional prototypes

Featured content

3D technologies in the development of the aerospace industry

Aerospace industry

Author: Semyon Popadyuk

Author: Semyon Popadyuk

The main advantages of additive technologies for aerospace industries | Software potential | How business models will change

Additive technologies, which seemed like science fiction a few decades ago, are now successfully used in various fields. One of the most promising markets for their application is the aerospace industry, for which the problem of reducing production and time costs is especially acute. In addition, it is this industry that is developing due to revolutionary scientific and technological achievements. The possibilities of 3D technologies are changing on such a large scale that manufacturers will have to rethink their usual business model. New strategies are just emerging, but industry giants — NASA, SpaceX, Airbus, Boeing — are already investing billions in 3D printing of prototypes, tooling and engine parts for aircraft and spacecraft.

Examples of improved production efficiency in two promising projects by Airbus and SpaceX

Key benefits of additive technologies for aerospace manufacturing

  • Flexibility : 3D printers are used to create components with complex geometries that cannot be made using traditional manufacturing processes. We can confidently talk about the creation of more and more perfect designs in the future. The materials used in 3D printing (alloys, composites, polyamides, etc.) make it possible to produce unique products.
  • Additive technologies successfully solve the key task for the industry - weight reduction of aircraft . A 3D printer is an ideal tool for manufacturing topologically optimized components that increase payload and reduce fuel costs.
  • Development of new and modernization of existing products requires less time and significantly reduces the production cycle .
  • Economy : When applied to highly specialized tasks, a 3D printer allows you to use fewer parts, materials and additional equipment, while drastically reducing the cost of low-volume components. With the development of technology, the cost of the finished product is falling, and the prices of printers have decreased by an order of magnitude over the past few years. According to forecasts, the cost of consumables will also decrease.
  • Finally, additive technologies in some cases make it possible minimize waste (compared to traditional processes) and improve the environmental and energy efficiency of aircraft.

GE aircraft engines use 3D printed turbines

Software potential

3D printing capabilities will expand with software development. With the help of modern software, it will be possible not only to quickly create a complex model, but also to automate the production process. Interactive models will make it possible to monitor and correct the slightest flaws in real time, calculate the safety and efficiency of all operations, and help you understand how equipment will behave in emergency situations. Thanks to advanced software technologies, suppliers, manufacturers and designers will work in a single information space and, in fact, communicate in a universal 3D language. To date, most of the tests are carried out in real conditions, but in the coming decades, software will be able to solve more and more problems.

How business models will change

So, additive technologies are an inevitable choice for a competitive enterprise. Today, most companies that implement them achieve reductions in production costs and product development time without changing the supply chain and assortment. In the medium term, a strategy that involves the development of more complex as well as new, highly functional products will come to the fore, which will lead to changes in the supply chain. And finally, in the long term, companies will be able to significantly increase the manufacturability of production and at the same time eliminate intermediaries from the supply chain. All of this will allow radically new, more efficient business models to be applied.

iQB Technologies experts have unique knowledge and experience to implement projects related to the introduction of additive technologies in a variety of industries, including the aerospace industry. We are ready to answer your questions, please contact us by phone. +7 (495) 272-81-50 or email [email protected]

Article published on 05/25/2017, updated on 04/07/2021

Metal 3D Printing - Fundamental Guide

There is no hotter trend in 3D printing today than metal. We will talk about metal printing at home, how it is done on an industrial scale, about technologies, applications, printers, processes, prices and materials.

Metal 3D printing has grown in popularity over the past few years. And this is quite natural: each material offers a unique combination of practical and aesthetic qualities, can be suitable for a wide range of products, prototypes, miniatures, decorations, functional details and even kitchen utensils.

The reason metal 3D printing has become so popular is because the printed objects can be mass-produced. In fact, some of the printed parts are just as good (if not better) than those made with traditional methods.

In traditional production, working with plastic and metal can be quite wasteful - there is a lot of waste, a lot of excess material is used. When an aircraft manufacturer makes metal parts, up to 90% of the material is simply cut off. 3D printed metal parts require less energy and waste is reduced to a minimum. It is also important that the final 3D printed product is up to 60% lighter than a traditional part. Billions of dollars could be saved in the aviation industry alone—mainly through weight savings and fuel savings.

So, what do we need to know about metal 3D printing?

Metal 3D printing at home

If you want to make objects at home that will look like metal, your best bet is to look at metalized PLA filaments (Photo: colorFabb)

Where to start if you want to print metal objects at home ? Given the extreme heat required for true metal 3D printing, a conventional FDM 3D printer will not be able to do this.

It is unlikely that in this decade it will be possible to print with liquid metal at home. Until 2020, you probably will not have a printer specialized for this purpose at home. But in a few years, as nanotechnology advances, we may see significant developments in new applications. This can be 3D printed with conductive silver, which will emit in much the same way as it does in 2D home printers. It will even be possible to mix different materials like plastic and metal in one object.

Materials for metal 3D printing at home

Even though you can't print actual metal objects at home, you can turn to plastic filament that has metal powders added to it. ColorFabb, ProtoPasta and TreeD Filaments all offer interesting metal-PLA composite filaments. These filaments, containing a significant percentage of metal powders, remain pliable enough to be printed at low temperatures (200 to 300 Celsius) on virtually any 3D printer. At the same time, they contain enough metal to make the final object look, feel, and even weigh like metal. Iron-based filaments even rust under certain conditions.

But you can go further. Typically, up to 50 percent metal powder is added to 3D printing filament. Dutch company Formfutura says they have achieved 85 percent metal powder with 15 percent PLA. These filaments are called MetalFil Ancient Bronze and Metalfil Classic Copper. They can be printed even at "moderate" temperatures from 190 to 200 degrees Celsius.

Metallic 3D Printing Filament Spools, in this case by SteelFill and CopperFill colorFabb (Steel and Bronze), Ancient Bronze by Formfutura

Here are the key points about metal printing at home

  • Gets a unique metal surface and look
  • Ideal for jewelry, figurines, housewares, replicas
  • Durability
  • Objects are not flexible (structure dependent)
  • Objects do not dissolve
  • Not considered food safe
  • Typical print temperature: 195 - 220°C
  • Extremely low shrinkage on cooling
  • No table heating required
  • Printing complexity is high, requires fine tuning of nozzle temperature, feed rate, post-processing

Preparing Your Home Printer for Metal 3D Printing

Since getting metal 3D prints is more difficult than usual, you may need to upgrade your 3D printer nozzle, especially if you are an entry-level printer. The metal filament wears it out quickly. There are hard-wearing hot-ends (like the E3D V6) that are themselves made of metal. They can withstand high temperatures and fit most printers. Be prepared for the fact that the nozzles will have to be changed frequently, because the metal filament is very abrasive.

You will also need to take care of the final finishing of the surface (cleaning, grinding, oiling, waxing or priming) so that the printed metal object shines as it should.

How much does metal filament for 3D printing cost?

And what about metal filament for 3D printing? - you ask. Here are a few examples:

  • ColorFabb's 750 gram Bronzefill spool is $56.36
  • ColorFabb 750g Copperfill Coil $56.36
  • Protopasta's Polishable Stainless Steel PLA Composite is $56 for 56 grams of
  • Protopasta's Rustable Magnetic Iron PLA Composite is $34.99 for 500 grams of

Industrial metal 3D printing

But what if you want a higher quality result or even full metal 3D printing? Should a real "metal" 3D printer be purchased for business needs? We wouldn't recommend it - unless you're going to be doing it every day. A professional metal 3D printer is expensive: EOS or Stratasys devices will cost you 100-500 thousand dollars. In addition, the costs will be even greater, since you will have to hire an operator, a worker to maintain the machine, as well as to finalize the printouts (polishing, for example). Just a note: In 2016, an affordable metal 3D printer didn't exist.

Lowering Metal 3D Printing Costs

In case you are not going to open a metal 3D printing business, but still need a professionally 3D printed metal part, it is better to contact the appropriate company that provides such services. 3D printing services like Shapeways, Sculpteo and iMaterialise offer direct metal printing.

They currently work with the following metal materials in 3D printing:

  • aluminum
  • steel
  • brass
  • copper
  • bronze
  • sterling silver
  • gold
  • platinum
  • titanium

If you are a jeweler, you can also order wax models for casting in precious metals.

If we talk about wax models, then in most cases they (with subsequent melting) are used when printing with metals (including gold and silver). Not all orders are carried out directly by these firms. They usually turn to other metal 3D printing companies to complete the order. However, the number of such services around the world is growing rapidly. In addition, metal 3D printing techniques are becoming more and more common in companies that offer such services.

The reason big companies love 3D printing so much is that it can be used to build fully automated lines that produce "topologically optimized" parts. This means that it is possible to fine-tune the raw materials and make the components thicker only if they must withstand heavy loads. In general, the mass of parts is significantly reduced, while their structural integrity is preserved. And this is not the only advantage of this technology. In some cases, the product turns out to be significantly cheaper and affordable for almost everyone.

Please note that metal 3D printing requires special CAD programs for modeling. It is worth paying attention to the recommendations of Shapeways - 3D printing metal guidelines. To delve further into the topic, check out Statasys’ information on related 3D printers and the nuances of metal 3D printing.

Here are some examples of the Benchy test model price for metal 3D printing:

  • Metal plastic: $22.44 (former alumide, PLA with aluminium)
  • Stainless steel: $83.75 (plated, polished)
  • Bronze: $299.91 (solid, polished)
  • Silver: $713.47 (solid, mirror polished)
  • Gold: $87.75 (gold plated, polished)
  • Gold: $12,540 (solid, 18K gold)
  • Platinum: $27,314 (solid, polished)

As you might expect, solid metal 3D printing prices are quite high.

Metal 3D printing. Applications

GE LEAP aircraft engine parts 3D printed at Avio Aero (Photo: GE)

There are several industries already using 3D printers to make everyday objects - you may not even know that these objects are printed.

  • The most common case is surgical and dental implants, which in this design are now considered the best option for patients. Reason: they can be tailored to individual needs.
  • Another industry is jewelry. Here, most manufacturers have abandoned resin 3D printing and wax casting, switching directly to metal 3D printing.
  • In addition, the aerospace industry is becoming more and more dependent on 3D printed metal objects. The Italian company Ge-AvioAero was the first to do all-metal 3D printing. It manufactures components for LEAP aircraft engines.
  • Another industry targeting metal 3D printing is the automotive industry. BMW, Audi, FCA are seriously considering this technology, not only for prototyping (3D printing has been used for this for quite some time), but also for making real parts.

Before metal 3D printing really takes off, however, there are some hurdles to overcome. And first of all, this is a high price, which cannot be made lower than during molding. Another problem is the low production speed.

Metal 3D printing.

Technologies

Most metal 3D printing processes start with an “atomized” powder

You can talk a lot about “metal” 3D printers, but their main problems remain the same as any other 3D – printers: software and hardware limitations, material optimization and multimateriality. We won't talk too much about the software, we'll just say that most of the major specialized software companies, such as Autodesk, SolidWorks and solidThinking, try to emphasize as much as possible the fact that as a result of the 3D metal printing process, you can get any shape you want.

In general, printed metal parts can be as strong as parts made by traditional processes. Parts made using DMLS technology have mechanical properties equivalent to casting. In addition, the porosity of objects made on a good "metal" 3D printer can reach 99.5%. In fact, manufacturer Stratasys claims that 3D printed metal parts perform above industry standards when tested for density.

3D printed metal can have different resolutions. At the highest resolution, layer thickness is 0.0008 - 0.0012" and X/Y resolution is 0.012 - 0.016". The minimum hole diameter is 0.035 - 0.045".

However, let's look at what metal 3D printing technologies are. formed layer)

The metal 3D printing process used by most relevant large companies today is called Powder Bed Fusion. This name indicates that some source of energy (a laser or other energy beam) melts an "atomized" powder (i.e., a metal powder that is carefully ground into spherical particles), resulting in layers of a printed object.

There are eight major manufacturers of metal 3D printers in the world that already use this technology; while we are talking here, there are more and more such companies. Most of them are in Germany. Their technologies are called SLM (Selective Laser Melting - selective laser fusion) or DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering - direct metal laser sintering).

Metal 3D-printing process No. 2:


Binder Jetting (spraying the binder)

under 3DP technology of Exone metal objects are printed by binding the powder before its binding in the mining (photos : ExOne)

Another professional approach that also uses a powder base is called Binder Jetting. In this case, the layers are formed by gluing metal particles together and then sintering (or fusing) them in a high-temperature furnace, just like it is done with ceramics.

Another option, which is similar to working with ceramics, is mixing metal powder into metal paste. A pneumatically extruded 3D printer (similar to a syringe bioprinter or an inexpensive food printer) forms 3D objects. When the required shape is reached, the object is sent to the furnace, i. e. in the mountains

This approach is used in the Mini Metal Maker, apparently the only inexpensive "metal" 3D printer.

Metal 3D printing process #3: 9Metal Deposition This is not entirely true. Of course, on some desktop device, simply fusing metal threads onto the base will not work. However, very large steel companies can do it. And they do. There are two options for working with "metal surfacing".

One is called DED (Directed Energy Deposition) or Laser Cladding. Here, a laser beam is used to melt the metal powder, which is slowly released and solidifies as a layer, and the powder is fed using a robotic arm.

Normally the whole process takes place in a closed chamber, but the MX3D project used conventional 3D printing techniques to build a full-size bridge. Another option for metal fusion is called EBAM (Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing - additive electron beam technology), which is essentially soldering, in which a very powerful electron beam is used to melt 3 mm titanium wire, and the molten metal forms very large finished structures. As for this technology, its details are known so far only to the military.

Metal 3D printing. Metals

3D Printing Metal #1: Titanium

Pure titanium (Ti64 or TiAl4V) is one of the most commonly used metals for 3D printing and is definitely one of the most versatile, strong and lightweight. Titanium is used both in the melting process in a preformed layer and in the process of spraying a binder and is used mainly in the medical industry (for the manufacture of personal prostheses), as well as in the aerospace industry, automotive and machine tools (for the manufacture of parts and prototypes). But there is one problem. Titanium is very reactive and explodes easily in powder form. Therefore, it is necessary that titanium 3D printing takes place in a vacuum or in an argon environment.

3D printing metal #2: Stainless steel

Stainless steel is one of the cheapest 3D printing metals. At the same time, it is very durable and can be used in a wide range of manufacturing and even artistic and design applications. The type of steel alloy used also contains cobalt and nickel, is very difficult to break, and has a very high elasticity. Stainless steel is used almost exclusively in industry.

3D Printing Metal #3: Inconel

Inconel is a superalloy manufactured by Special Metals Corporation, its registered trademark. The alloy consists mainly of nickel and chromium and is very heat resistant. Therefore, it is used in the oil, chemical and aerospace (for black boxes) industries.

3D Printing Metal #4: Aluminum

Due to its lightness and versatility, aluminum is very popular in 3D printing. Aluminum alloys are commonly used.

3D Printing Metal #5: Cobalt Chrome

gap). It is most commonly used in the manufacture of turbines, dental and orthopedic implants, where 3D printing has become the dominant technology.

3D printing metal #5. Copper and bronze

With some exceptions, copper and bronze are used in wax melting processes, rarely in layer melting. The fact is that these metals are not very suitable for industry, they are more often used in the manufacture of works of art and crafts. ColorFabb offers both metals as the basis for a special metal filament.

3D printing metal #6. Iron

Iron, incl. magnetic, also mainly used as an additive to PLA-based filaments, which are produced, for example, by ProtoPasta and TreeD.

3D printing metal #7. Gold, Silver and Other Precious Metals

Most preformed melt companies can 3D print precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum. Here, along with the preservation of the aesthetic properties of materials, it is important to achieve optimization of work with expensive starting powder. Precious metal 3D printing is required for jewelry, medical applications and electronics.

Metal 3D printing. Printers

Do not even hesitate - the purchase of a metal 3D printer will not pass without a trace on your budget. It will cost at least 100-250 thousand dollars. Here is a list of a variety of "metal" printers, some of which can be found in firms providing 3D printing services.

Metal 3D Printer #1:


Sciaky EBAM 300 - Metal Filament Printing

If you need to print really large metal structures, Sciaky's EBAM technology is your best bet. By order, the device can be built in almost any size. This technique is used mainly in the aerospace industry and the military.

Sciaky's largest production printer is the EBAM 300. It prints objects in a volume of 5791 x 1219 x 1219 mm.

The company claims the EBAM 300 is also one of the fastest industrial 3D printers on the market. A three-meter-sized titanium part for an aircraft is printed on it in 48 hours, while the material consumption is about 7 kg per hour. In general, forged parts that usually take 6-12 months to complete can be made in 2 days with this 3D printer.

The metal layers are first cut and then ultrasonically welded. The largest Fabrisonic 7200 printer operates in a volume of 2 x 2 x 1.5 m. The metal powder 3D printer is the Concept Laser XLine 1000. It has a modeling volume of 630 x 400 x 500 mm and is the size of a house.

Its German company, one of the main suppliers of 3D printers for aerospace giants like Airbus, recently introduced a new machine, the Xline 2000.

This machine uses two lasers and has a working volume of 800 x 400 x 500 mm. Uses LaserCUSING laser technology (a variant of selective laser fusion) from Concept Laser, which allows you to print alloys of steel, aluminum, nickel, titanium, precious metals and even some pure substances (titanium and stainless steel).

Metallic 3D printing. Services

There are more than 100 companies worldwide offering metal 3D printing services. We list the most popular services for consumer needs.

Metal 3D Printing Service #1: Shapeways

The world's most popular 3D printing service, Shapeways offers two types of services. As a consumer, you can choose from a wide range of professionally designed objects, customize them, and then have them printed to your specifications. Like other 3D printing services, Shapeways offers a platform for designers to sell and print their work. Shapeways is also a good place for rapid prototyping: customers benefit from industrial-grade printers (EOS, 3D Systems) and personal technical support.

3D printing metals: aluminium, brass, bronze, gold, platinum, precious metal plating, silver, steel. There are also wax molds for jewelry purposes.

Metal 3D Printing Service #2: Sculpteo

Like Shapeways and i.materialise, Sculpteo is an online 3D printing service that allows anyone to upload 3D models and send them to fabrication in a wide range of materials . Like its competitors, Sculpteo provides a platform for hobbyists and professionals to showcase and sell their designs. The stable of Sculpteo printers includes highly professional machines from 3D Systems, EOS, Stratasys and ZCorp. Extensive technical documentation will help identify design flaws and select the right material for the project.

3D printing metals: alumide (plastic with aluminum particles), brass, silver.

Metal 3D Printing Service #3: iMaterialise

Materialise is a company that works with industrial customers to prototype 3D printed products. For casual users and designers, Materialize offers an online 3D printing service called i.materialise. As with Shapeways, this service allows anyone to upload their 3D designs and print them out. Once an object has been uploaded and successfully printed, a designer can list it for sale either in the gallery of the i.materalise online store or by embedding some code into their website.

3D printing metals: alumide (plastic with aluminum powder), brass, bronze, copper, gold, silver, steel, titanium.

Metal 3D Printing Service #4: 3D Hubs

Through 3D Hubs, you can search for individuals and firms that offer 3D printing services in your area, upload STL files (which are immediately evaluated for defects ) and contact service providers directly to get the job done.


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