By Jose Doval, advanced R&D director, Metal Printing, and Kirt Winter, principal firmware engineer, 3D Systems

The recent $15M award by the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to 3D Systems and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) is designed to fund research into the next generation of large-scale metal powder-based additive manufacturing.

3D Systems has a long history of metal powder bed fusion starting with the acquisition of DTM in 2001.  In the mid 1990’s DTM had pioneered a sintered metals technology named RapidSteel. This was followed by additional acquisitions of Phenix and LayerWise in 2014, all industry-leaders in the field of Direct Metal Printing (DMP).  Leveraging all of this expertise 3D Systems has already transformed the industry with the new scalable DMP Factory 350 and DMP Factory 500 metal 3D printers. These workhorses already provide manufacturers the ability to produce parts whose metallic properties, accuracy and overall quality is unmatched in the industry.

3D Systems DMP Flex 350 robust metal 3D printer for 24/7 part production and flexible application use
This metal additive system requires 484 pounds of powder. Imagine what a machine 3 times the size needs

As the team seeks to deliver a printer with over four times the build volume of our DMP Factory 500 metal printer, it’s important to realize that “just make a bigger one” is far from a straightforward task. Techniques that work well on smaller print beds do not always scale to larger ones.

For example, on the DMP Factory 350, the build area can hold up to 484 pounds of powder. This grows to 2,500 pounds of powder in the DMP Factory 500, and a whopping 12,000 pounds in the system we plan to deliver to the ARL.

This isn’t just a little more challenging, it’s a lot more challenging!

3D Systems has already pushed the quality of additive metal parts from the notoriously porous samples of 20 years ago to parts that match the material properties of traditionally manufactured metal parts, with high accuracy and repeatability in place as well. While holding the line on all of those properties, my team is tasked with building a one-meter build area printer that also has higher throughput (part volume produced per minute) than any printer 3D Systems has built before.

We are more than excited to take on this task for ARL as well as the larger manufacturing community. We’ll keep you informed about our progress and the technology we develop to tackle the unique challenges of “Big Metal.”

See more about the ARL deal at: