Our advanced metal printing solutions are changing part manufacturing.
A manufacturing research team was recently assigned to investigate new possibilities in 3D printing. The team started “playing around with metals” and experimented with creating an aluminum dynamic heat exchanger. Soon they turned what had been a milled block for thermal exchange into a 3D printed object. The printed heat exchanger was a better solution to the heat distribution problem being solved, it could be created 3 times faster with direct metal 3D printing, and it was 10 times lighter than the milled block.
The heat exchanger is one example of many. There is a revolution taking place in 3D printing, now often called additive manufacturing (AM). A variety of new processes and metal compounds make it possible to rethink how best to create a wide variety of products, parts, components, and tools. New alloys and strategic metals including titanium and stainless steel can now be used to create digital-direct parts of highest quality. It is time to revisit the total cost of ownership against the cost of creating a part, by rethinking the processes and assumptions that have guided manufacturing for generations.
Direct Metal Printing (DMP) from 3D Systems is an additive manufacturing technology which builds high quality complex metal parts from 3D CAD data. DMP differs from other additive manufacturing processes such as Stereolithography (SLA) or Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) in that parts are sintered on build plate within an inert argon environment. DMP and DMLS are similar processes to Selective laser sintering, however 3D Systems DMP printers are specifically designed to operate with metal alloys.
A high precision laser is directed to metal powder particles to selectively build up thin horizontal metal layers one by one. Metal parts with challenging geometries — not possible using traditional subtractive or casting technologies — now become feasible. With the right mix of printer and materials, manufacturers can directly print designs, from prototypes to production series of up to 20,000 units. Accuracy measured in microns is not a problem for DMP.
The use of direct metal printing allows for production of small and extremely complex shapes with no need for tooling. New CAD products help optimize designs, with novel topology, complex internal lattice structures, and thin-yet-strong walls for significant part weight reduction. These new design and manufacturing options can lead directly into new designs, new business models, and new markets.
The benefits of metal additive manufacturing.
DMP is ideal for production of small and extremely complex shapes with no need for tooling. The high quality parts are ideal for both R&D and serial part manufacturing at the tightest tolerances.
Save time, cost, and part weight with an integrated precision metal manufacturing solution.
Product development impacts both function and economics. Design process are often too costly to included functional testing for more than a few design iterations, by deploying rapid prototyping technologies time to market is decreased and product quality is enhanced. Companies wanting to reduce and improve product development processes should examine key factors:
- Lead times — The amount of elapsed time between concept development to initial production;
- Engineering effort — The man-hours required to go from concept development to initial production.
- Transformative Design — Our DMLS solutions offer a streamlined workflow to advance and accelerate projects–taking them from design to printed object quickly and affordably. The addition of complex and conformal latticeworks enables lighweighting of parts while retaining tensile strengths.
- Quality — Additive manufacturing with direct metal printing can produce quality equal to — and often superior to — traditional manufacturing processes. Whether a manufacturer uses traditional methods or DMP depends on several factors:
- Quantity — If tooling is involved, and the production run is very small, creating parts using DMP can be much cheaper than the cost of tooling and a traditional factory production run. Eliminating the need to create molds, die, and tools for a traditional run saves materials and energy, leading to a more sustainable manufacturing process.
- Materials — DMLS Printers utilize extremely fine metal powder 5-25µ in diameter that are produced through ball milling. New design methods in CAD are making it easier to create models that can only be manufactured by AM, using material strength and novel internal structure to essentially hollow out a part. The ability to create a light part with no waste is making it feasible to use more expensive materials like titanium. Less weight means less consumption of energy, contributing to sustainability as a design criteria.
- Variation — DMP allows manufacture of a variety of slightly modified versions of a part, with immediate turnaround from one production run — or from one part — to the next.
- Not Traditional — Direct metal additive manufacturing allows highly complex structures to be lighter, stronger, and more stable than traditional parts and offers a true design-driven manufacturing process, eliminating late design changes for manufacturability. It’s ideal for custom applications, such as medical or other build-to-order products, but is not a replacement for all traditional factory production methods.
Think small to go big.
Miniaturization has become more important in manufacturing as the need for precision printing in smaller parts increases. Medical technology, automotive, A&D, and the electronics and electrical industries have found new uses for precision parts in ultra-small dimensions. With accurate print design measurable in microns, DMP is a natural choice for the creating the smallest parts.
Additive manufacturing with DMP opens the door to creating tool-less production methods. The processes and advantages of DMP provide maximum freedom of design and the opportunity to rethink the entire art-to-part cycle. Building parts with internal functionality not possible to manufacture with traditional processes is one possibility. A workflow that specifies design variation is another. Placing the “factory” at the client site is another possibility. 3D Systems offers service bureaus around the world, literally offering manufacturing as a service.