Metal 3D printing – new revolution in 3D printing?

If you have not heard about it yet – you soon will. 3D printing is taking over the world like a hurricane. It is a new innovative technology, which can be used in various areas, including healthcare,  car manufacturing, tech, finance sector, and even architecture. There are 3D printers that can be bought for personal use at home. With their help, you can produce everything – from gifts to toys for your children. In the next few years, 3D printing will be as common as laser printing is today.

3D printing is developing at a fast pace, so fast, it got to a point where metal is beginning to be used in this technology. Below is everything you need to know about metal  3d printing.

What is 3D printing?

So what is 3D printing? In simple words, you use a digital file to create a 3D object. During 3D printing, you apply the so-called additive process. When using this process you apply the material layer by layer until the desired product is created. This does not resemble the traditional subtractive process, where the material is removed from the workpiece until the desired object is produced. Imagine that you take a wooden blank and plane it until you get the desired part. That is how the subtractive method works.

3D printing allows creating constructions with a lesser amount of waste, hence using less material compared to the subtractive method. During 3D printing, you start working with a digital project instead of a plastic or wooden blank. 3D printer reads the project and lays the material layer by layer until the needed construction is finished.

What is metal 3D printing?

You can work with different types of materials when using 3D printing. Today, the most common materials are various types of plastics.

Plastics are cheap and accessible, which makes it attractive for businesses and consumers. But plastics are not the only choice. People have already started using cement 3D printing for constructing buildings and even produce food products using 3D printers! Another option is metal 3D printing. Metal 3D printing is bringing revolution to mass production and changing the way of parts manufacturing. 3D printing was expected to absorb all other technologies but it has not happened yet. But when the process of metal 3D printing becomes accessible and fast – it will change everything.

How does metal 3D printing work?

Metal 3D printing begins just like any other additive process – from a digital project, on the basis of which the 3D printer distributes layers of material. But the process of metal 3D printing itself is done in one of three ways.

The first way is mental binder jetting. When metal is sintered, metal powder and a binding glue-like substance are applied into thin layers. Interbedded layers of metal powder and binding substance fuse together and form the desired part. The process is repeated until the whole part is finished, which can take several hours.

Metal powder, which is not used during the process, helps support the construction and is separated from it after the work is finished. Once the part is formed it is still very fragile. Therefore, the finished part is put in the oven with a temperature of 350°F for 34 hours to remove all the moisture and to harden the material.

The second way is powder bed fusion. The process is very similar to the previous one but instead of the binding substance an energy source is used,  laser, for example.

The laser heats up the metal powder applied to the construction, melts it and creates a hard layer. The process is repeated until the desired part is produced.

The last way of metal 3D printing is called directed energy deposition. This process uses metal wire or metal powder. A nozzle that moves in various directions lays metal wire or powder layer by layer until the desired construction is formed. Upon completion, the metal is melted using a laser or electron beam. This process is usually used to repair existing metal objects but it can also be used to create new objects from scratch.

Metal 3D printing demonstrates the most impressive growth. It will change everything that the industry uses to develop and produce products. The speed of production will increase and the costs will decrease, which will have an impact on everyone affected, including consumers like us.

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