What is 3D metal printing?
In recent years3D metal printing has grown rapidly with many technological advances, characterized by the arrival of aspiring manufacturers who offer innovative and increasingly affordable manufacturing processes and a portfolio of materials that is expanding a little more each day.
3D metal printing is popular in many fields such as aviation, automotive and medical technology because it can produce complex metal parts at a relatively low cost compared to traditional manufacturing techniques such as machining, milling or vacuum casting.
Thanks to the variety of 3D metal printers on the market today, the possibilities are numerous: professionals can choose between powder coating, metal separation and hybrid systems! Discover our guide to learn all about 3D printing of metals, materials, main characters, applications and much more.
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3D Metal Printing Technologies
The process of fusion of the dust layer, introduced in the 1970s, is based on a relatively simple principle: an energy source that sinters or melts metal dust to create the last layer of layers. The most famous technology based on this principle is undoubtedly direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), which was patented in 1990 by ERD and EOS.
The deposition of metal with concentrated energy can be similar to the deposition of molten material, but using metal. In particular, we distinguish between the method developed by Irepa Laser with direct laser additive design (CLAD). The powder is sprayed from the nozzle and melted at the outlet to form a kind of laser weld grain. Unlike powder fusion, this method can be used for direct printing.
In the 1990s, CIRTES developed a new hybrid method, estratoconcept, which combines processing and additive manufacturing. Cold extrusion is another procedure also called cold cutting. The aim is to mix the metal powder with cold injection on the conveyor. The projection is protected by helium.
It is a 3D metal printing process which is not widely used compared to others today because the gas in question is relatively expensive. Some manufacturers have developed their own patented technologies which are different from the main suppliers listed above. We are thinking of the magnetic metal handling developed by Vader Sistems thanks to magnetism or metal injection technology inspired by French pollen AM.
Compatible metals in additive manufacturing
Among the most commonly used metals in additive manufacturing are aluminum, mainly in the form of an alloy that offers lightness and durability. It is used mainly for parts where weight is important, for example, in aviation and the automobile. Steel is also a popular material, especially in industry. It has good mechanical properties and a pleasant surface. It is the most widely used material in auxiliary metal production. In addition, there are materials such as gallium, cobalt and chromium, particularly suitable for medical use and titanium, highly corrosion resistant and with a high level of biocompatibility for medical applications. Precious metals are mainly used in jewelry. Despite the high cost, gold, silver and bronze make all types of jewelry more or less complex. The biggest challenge then is to fill out the form.
Actors in auxiliary metal production
Companies using 3D metal printing are multiplying. However, pioneers may differ in technology. Leading manufacturers of 3D metal printers include the American company 3DSistems, which now offers (by purchasing the French company Phenik Sistems 2013) a complete series of machines; SLM Solutions, one of the pioneers in selective laser manufacturing, thanks to mergers with EOS and Concept Laser; and finally Arcam, which was the source of the electron beam fusion technology in 2000.