A 3d Printer Making Strides With Metal

A 3d Printer Making Strides With Metal

Metallic 3D Printing: Where Are We Today?

xix Feb 2019

A 3d Printer Making Strides With Metal

Just a decade ago, few believed that metal 3D press could always be a serious contender for serial production.

Even so, the technology has seen a rapid evolution, particularly over the last few years. Now, with metal parts existence used in applications as wide-reaching as medical, automotive and aerospace, the technology is gearing upwardly for production.

Simply where are we today?

As the

metal 3D printing market continues to grow
, information technology’south important to go on up with the ever-changing landscape. That’due south why today, nosotros’ll be taking a look at the evolution of metal 3D printing – how far the engineering science has come, where things currently prevarication and what the future holds for this innovative technology.

Graph showing growth in metal 3d printing

Key events that have shaped metallic 3D press


Since the 1980s, the technological and marketplace landscape has evolved significantly for metal 3D printing. While the growth of the technology in the early 2000s was incremental, the landscape has changed over the final five years, with a number of new players entering the market.

Metallic AM systems have evolved to a indicate where they are now able to process more materials and enable a wider range of applications.

A cursory overview of some of the key events to shape the evolution of the technology:

  • 1980s
    : Dr Carl Deckard (University of Texas) patents a selective laser sintering technology for plastics. This invention will pave the way for metal 3D press.
  • 1988
    : Dr Ely Sachs (MIT) develops a new binder jetting procedure that would become the basis of metal binder jetting. Metal Binder Jetting would subsequently exist licensed to ExOne in 1996.
  • 1994
    : EOS unveils its prototype EOSINT M160 car, based on metal laser sintering engineering. The following year, the company launches the EOSINT M250 machine, which is the first to utilize metal laser sintering technology.
  • 1995
    : The Fraunhofer Constitute in Aachen, Germany, files the first patent for the laser melting of metals.
  • 1998
    : Optomec commercialises its Laser-Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) metal pulverisation system, one of the

    Directly Energy Deposition

  • 2002
    : Arkham launches the first EBM machine, the S12.
  • 2004-2005
    : EOS switches from the CO2 light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation used in plastics SLS to a fibre laser that is more suitable for melting metals.
  • 2017:
    U.s.a.-based startup, Digital Alloys, announces its patented Joule method for metal 3D printing and closes a $12.9 million Series B funding round the post-obit twelvemonth.

  • 2018:
    Post-obit its success with its Multi Jet Fusion system for polymers, HP throws its chapeau into the metal 3D printing band with the debut of its Metal Jet 3D printing system for metals. The aforementioned year,


    Wohler’southward Report

    announces an eighty% growth in metal AM systems for 2017.

  • 2019:
    Desktop Metallic, which offers its Production, Store and Studio metallic AM systems, closes $160 million in a Series E investment round.

The development of metallic AM systems

DMLS — the starting betoken


The origins of directly metal 3D printing can be traced back to 1994, when EOS first introduced its EOSINT M250 automobile. This machine was based on

direct metal laser sintering (DMLS)


At the time, the DMLS sintering process worked similarly to

Selective Laser Sintering

for plastics, in that metallic pulverisation was partially melted and fused together to create metal parts.

Nevertheless, sintering isn’t the most efficient way to grade fully dense metal parts.

Between 2004 and 2005, EOS introduced more than powerful fibre lasers to its machines — and this inverse the game significantly.

At present, although the term DMLS retains the legacy of sintering, mod DMLS machines are able to fully melt metal powders, delivering parts with a density of over 99%.

As of 2019, DMLS and EBM remain the two nigh widely used metallic additive manufacturing processes.

New machines


Thank you to ongoing technological improvements and increased competition in the metallic 3D press marketplace, metallic AM systems are becoming increasingly more optimised for production.

The last several years have been peculiarly heady as new product concepts for metal 3D press have emerged.

Primal players like EOS, Concept Laser and 3D Systems accept all recently

launched solutions

reflecting their respective visions of metallic 3D printing every bit a part of a smart factory.

The majority of these solutions share similar characteristics: they are modular, configurable and offer a high level of automation in a bid to maximise efficiency and reduce the amount of manual labour required.

With the industry moving towards greater automation and flexibility, these modular platforms can provide manufacturers with a means to integrate the technology more easily into their production processes and scale upward faster.

New players


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The metal 3D printing market is a growing area of activity, with over xx companies producing metal AM systems. The number of new players entering the market is growing continuously, equally companies seek to pb the drive towards serial product.

Digital Alloys and Joule Printing

One case is Digital Alloys, which has developed its proprietary

Joule printing technology

, designed to tackle the problems of speed and price.

Joule printing uses metal in wire class, which is typically cheaper than metal powders. The high-speed process is controlled through a closed-loop system, with the metal wire fed into a precision movement system.

The technology, which is due to be commercially released in 2020, promises greater process reliability, faster speeds and depression raw fabric costs. These factors combined could help to significantly reduce overall production costs.

Digital_Alloys Joule 3D printing

HP’s Metal Jet

HP first outburst onto the 3D printing scene with its Multi Jet Fusion technology, used for plastics. In 2018, the company made its first foray into the metallic 3D printing arena with its

Metal Jet arrangement


The system is based on HP’s binder jetting technology, using off-the-shelf metallic injection moulding (MIM) powders to bring downward costs. The organization, also slated for a 2020 release, is said to be 50 times faster than comparable folder jetting or selective laser melting systems.

HP Multi Jet Fusion and Metal Jet Printing processes

Desktop Metal

Founded in 2015, the The states-based company was co-founded by Ely Sachs, the inventor of the binder jetting procedure.

With a goal to make metal 3D printing as attainable as possible, Desktop Metal offers its Studio System, targeted at pocket-sized production runs, as well as its Production System, aimed for big-calibration 3D printing. More than recently the company also introduced a Shop organization, designed for machine shops.

Desktop Metal is now one of a handful of 3D printing startups that have reached unicorn status, valued at around $1.2 billion.

The flurry of action within the metal 3D press space is yet another positive sign of the engineering science moving forward towards the dream of serial AM production.

Desktop Metal Production System for metal 3D printing
Desktop Metal’s Production System for large-scale manufacturing [Image credit: Desktop Metal]


Straight Energy Deposition (DED)


Another technology that is bringing exciting developments into the earth of metallic 3D press is

Direct Energy Deposition (DED)


Originating from welding processes, DED technology uses a laser beam to cook metallic powders or wire equally they are pushed through a nozzle onto a build platform. Unlike folder jetting and powder bed processes, this technology is specially suitable for creating larger components.

Historically, DED has been used to repair components by adding features to an existing part. Now it’s more than widely for manufacturing in industries ranging from aerospace & defense force to oil & gas.

Norwegian visitor Norsk Titanium, for example, uses its proprietary DED technology (Rapid Plasma Deposition) to produce FAA-approved shipping titanium parts for Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Taking a hybrid approach


A key evolution being driven past DED technology is

hybrid manufacturing


In this type of manufacturing process, DED can be combined with a subtractive process such as milling, to manufacture and end parts within a unmarried system.

For many industries, this approach could significantly streamline the manufacturing process. The do good is clear: instead of 3D printing a part and moving it to a dissimilar piece of equipment for finishing, the entire operation can take identify in a unmarried auto. This process reduces the time needed to produce and post-process each part.

There a now a small-scale number of companies offering hybrid solutions, including Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies and Imperial Automobile & Tool Co.

Similarly, several manufacturers of cutting motorcar tools and CNC mills, similar DMG Mori and Mazak, now offer some form of AM adequacy.

Hybrid hardware solutions do remain limited, due to the early stage of the technology. That said, the harnessing condiment and subtractive operations in one system has the potential to transform the way parts are manufactured.

Direct Energy Deposition technology for metal 3D printing

Developments in materials for metal 3D press

Achieving material multifariousness


Developing metals for additive manufacturing

is a challenging process — developing a completely new metallic alloy could take upward to three years.

Early users of metal 3D printing sourced metallic powders from casting and forging markets. These, however, aren’t the platonic choice for additive manufacturing, where specific chemistries and microstructures are required.

Every bit the engineering science has evolved, cloth developers and early on adopters, more than familiar with the technologies and machines, have begun to develop metal materials that are suitable for AM.

Every bit metal 3D printing looks towards series production, material diverseness will play an increasingly greater part. The more quality materials that are available, the broader the scope of applications for the technology.

3D printing challenging metals


The evolution of powerful lasers inside DMLS systems has meant that more materials can be candy with the technology. These include metals such every bit stainless steel, titanium, cobalt chrome and Inconel alloys.

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Yet, non all metals lend themselves to 3D printing easily. For example, copper and precious metals are particularly challenging to print, in role considering they reverberate the heat applied by a light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation beam.

Fortunately, in that location take been moves to develop new systems capable of 3D printing such metals.

At formnext 2018, TRUMPF demonstrated its green light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation technology which can print pure copper also as other precious metals.

The company believes that 3D printing pure copper can become an culling way to create conductive inductors and heat exchangers, which are peculiarly useful for the electronics and automotive industries.


Electron Beam Melting

(EBM), a process that uses an electron axle as the heat source, has been developed to handle high-heat and crack-prone materials, like titanium aluminide (TiAl).

Thanks to its unique ability to reach extremely high temperatures, EBM is reportedly

the only commercial AM solution

for manufacturing titanium aluminide parts.


Materials suppliers motion to metal AM


In spite of the challenges involved in developing metal powders and alloys suitable for 3D printing, the list of manufacturing materials suppliers looking to bring together the market is steadily increasing.

Companies similar Carpenter Engineering science, Sandvik AB,



Höganäs AB are just some of the well-known names that have identified metal 3D printing as

a loftier-value, long-term opportunity.

Over the last two years, the industry has seen these companies making investments in AM, consolidating their presence in the metal pulverisation market.

In February 2018, Sandvik, a leading supplier of metal powders, announced a $25 1000000 investment into the construction of a metal pulverisation production plant in Sweden. The new found facility will exist producing nickel and titanium alloys.

Carpenter Engineering has also been increasing its activities in metal AM, with a series of investments into companies like CalRAM, an AM service visitor, and Puris, a maker of titanium powders.

In 2018, the company acquired LPW Engineering science, a leading provider of metallic powders for DED and Powder Bed Fusion technologies.

As a cardinal role player in the development of metal materials for AM, LPW Technology is undoubtedly a significant addition to Carpenter’s portfolio, establishing the company’s firm entry into the materials marketplace.

With other materials companies also taking steps to respond to the growth of the metal 3D printing market, the manufacture can wait to see significant developments in the diversity and performance of new metal alloys over the coming years.

Is the toll of materials coming downwards?


The cost of metal powders of AM has been significantly higher than the cost of metals for traditional processes.

“Material price is another crucial factor [for AM end-part production]: the materials are very plush and manufacturing is all about price,” says

HP’due south Tim Weber

, speaking to AMFG in a recent interview.

“If yous have a production method that provides a manner to produce parts at a lower toll, nigh manufacturers will make the switch right abroad. But we need to make sure that the overall material costs are reduced.”

For instance, the cost for TI64 pulverization tin range from $150 to $400 per kilogram. These powders require a lot of free energy to be produced and must be of certain size and course, while maintaining a high level of purity. These factors contribute to the high costs.

However, with the entry of new players into the materials market place, this increased contest volition likely see the price of metal powders continue to autumn.

One mode to reduce material costs could be to use cheaper metal injection moulding (MIM) powders.

Several equipment manufacturers, similar HP, Desktop Metal and Digital Metal have jumped at this opportunity, developing jetting systems suitable for processing MIM powders.

Using depression-price MIM powders not but makes the technology more accessible, merely besides significantly expands the fabric choice for metallic AM.

Developments in software for metal 3D press

ANSYS Additive Suite for Metal Additive Manufacturing

Some other growing, nonetheless often less talked near, expanse of metal 3D press is simulation software.

The nature of the metal 3D press process means that information technology can exist difficult to achieve a successful print the first fourth dimension around. The complexity of the geometries, coupled with the high temperatures and support structures required are just some of the challenges facing engineers designing for metal 3D printing.

Metallic simulation software is, therefore, a critical element in the printing process. With simulation, engineers are able to predict and analyse how a part will behave during the procedure earlier the office actually goes to impress. Users tin can optimise their build preparation, thereby reducing the chances of print failure.

At that place is a growing number of

simulation software solutions on the market

, including Autodesk’due south Netfabb, Dassault Systèmes’ SIMULIA and Simufact.

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Interestingly, as is the example with materials, several established players are besides eyeing AM as a key opportunity.

Permit’southward accept


as an case. ANSYS is a well-known provider of engineering simulation software, typically used to design products and semiconductors in addition to simulation solutions that can test production performance.

ANSYS fabricated its entry into the metal 3D printing market place with its acquisition of 3DSIM, a metal simulation visitor in 2017. Since then, the visitor has gone on to release its Additive Suite and Additive Impress simulations platforms in early 2018.

The challenges of metal 3D printing

Standardising metal parts


Making the shift from prototyping to production is not without its challenges. Series product, in particular, is based on a specific set of regulations, documentation, and processes that take go established norms.

Metal 3D printing is just at the outset of its journey towards

establishing its own standards

. Currently, standards exist primarily to depict the general characteristics of metal 3D printing processes like DED and Powder Bed Fusion.

Some material specifications are besides being developed, including standards for titanium, nickel alloys, stainless steel, cobalt chromium.

Notably, the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF) has recently issued nine MPIF Standard Test Methods for characterising metal AM powders.

Aimed at designers, manufacturers and users of metal AM parts, this collection is yet another sign of industries recognising the growing office of metal 3D printing in the manufacturing world.

Cost and speed


In spite of the impressive progress made, metallic 3D press is still plagued by two cardinal limitations: toll and speed.

“There just aren’t many skillful options today if you want to apply 3D printing for production. This is because systems are besides dull, production costs are too high and the processes are likewise complex”, says Digital Alloys’ CEO, Duncan McCallum.

For instance, the average cost of a powder-bed metal system can range from anywhere between $200,000 and $2 million. Of course, this excludes the cost of materials and any postal service-processing steps that volition need to exist taken.

Equally metal AM continues to gain traction every bit a manufacturing solution, the technology will need to become faster and cheaper to further accelerate adoption.

High-volume production


Because of its suitability for high-value, low-volume applications, metal 3D printing was adopted early on on past the aerospace and medical industries.

All the same, the potential of metal 3D press for manufacturing makes it an exciting technology for industries outside of these well-known applications.

That said, increasing production volumes remains a central hurdle for wider AM adoption. This is particularly the case for the automotive industry which, apart from the

performance racing

and luxury vehicle sectors, typically require high production volumes.

“[Automotive] production volumes are considerably different from the volumes of aerospace or medical,” says Harold Sears,

Ford Motor Company’due south Technical Leader for Additive Manufacturing

. “So we have to await at systems that are capable of producing parts in minutes or seconds as opposed to days and hours. Anything that nosotros can do to push the technology into faster build speeds is definitely what volition help u.s. as well”.

While advancements in hardware will help to drive production volumes further, process optimisation is another way to achieve higher volumes with metallic 3D printing.

Betatype has

demonstrated this
 with the
creation of heatsinks for LED automotive headlights.


Through design optimisation, the company has been able to develop a way to stack many parts together in i building envelope.

This arroyo has made it possible to manufacture 384 parts at one time, reducing the build time from 444 hours to less than xxx hours and the cost from $39 downward to just $three.

Betatype believes that running merely 7 machines with this optimised process could accomplish 1 million parts per year, approaching the automotive manufacture’s requirements in terms of both volume and cost-effectiveness.

The Future of Metal 3D Printing


Metallic 3D printing has made great strides, overcoming the 3D printing hype of the mid-2000s. Today, nosotros’re seeing advancements in every area of the market, from the development of new printing processes to faster machines and a greater range of suitable materials.

On the investment side, the marketplace is growing rapidly, equally larger companies invest in and larn specialist companies and new players enter the market. Just recently, printing behemothic Xerox made

a articulate motion into metal 3D printing

with the acquisition of metal 3D printing startup, Vader.

With the landscape changing chop-chop, what will the situation be in 10 years? While hard to predict, one thing is clear: metallic 3D printing is well on its style towards becoming a truly viable manufacturing solution.

A 3d Printer Making Strides With Metal

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