Barack Obama once described 3D printing as “the next industrial revolution”. This meant not only the rapid introduction of the desktop 3D printer in the home living room worldwide but especially the 3D printing with metal in the industrial environment.
Today, metal 3D printers are available from a large number of companies worldwide and are used in many different industries and sectors, such as the aerospace industry or the automotive industry. This page is dedicated to metal printing, its history and regularly new contributions to its development and future forecast. For the metal 3D printing this is the most important part.
Metal 3D printing is arguably one of the most complex, impressive, influential, and fastest-evolving 3D printing technologies. Today, functional 3D metal printers can be found mainly in various research institutions, universities but also in the more frequently industrial environment. The theme environment of 3D metal printing is particularly exciting because of its scientific character and disruptive properties.
History of metal 3D printing
The powder bed-based fusion process was already introduced in the 1970s. Here, an energy source sinters or melts a metal powder to produce the final piece in layers. The best-known technology based on this principle is undoubtedly Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). It was patented by ERD and EOS in the 1990s. Similar to the deposition of molten material, the metal deposit could be with concentrated energy but with metal usage. Here, we distinguish in particular the process Direct Additive Laser Construction (CLAD), which was developed by Irena Laser. Compared to powder-bed-based melting, this method can print directly on one part.
In the 1990s, CITES developed a new hybrid method called strato-conception, which combines additive manufacturing and additive processing. The so-called cold spraying, on the other hand, is another process which is also known by the term cold cutting process. Here you try to connect the metal powder together by being cold projected onto a carrier. Thereafter, the projection is ensured with helium.
Common metals for 3D metal printing
The most commonly used metal in 3D printing with metal is aluminum, which is mostly found in the form of an alloy that provides both strength and lightness. It is particularly used for parts where weight plays an important role, such as in the automotive and aerospace industries. Also, steel is one of the most popular materials in the manufacturing industry because it offers a nice surface and good mechanical properties. It is one of the most commonly used materials in metal 3D printing. Other materials include cobalt-chrome suitable for medical applications, gallium and titanium high biocompatibility and resistant to corrosion are increasingly used.
Well-known companies of the metal 3D printing industry
Companies turning to metal 3D printing are becoming more and more numerous. The company SLM Solutions is one of the leading manufacturers of metal 3D printers. SLM Solutions is one of the pioneers of laser-selective production alongside Concept Laser and EOS. Also noteworthy is the company Arcam which is behind the electron beam fusion technology.
More and more manufacturers are entering the additive metal manufacturing market by offering new 3D printers and technologies at a relatively low cost compared to current solutions. Just a few years ago, HP Inc. joined the company. Leaving the American continent, we come across the origin of technology called NanoParticle Jetting and the Israeli manufacturer XJet.