Intro to 3D Metal Printing

Intro to 3D Metal Printing

Although it seems like something from outer space, 3-D printing has been around since the mid-1980s. For years, 3-D printing was only available to companies that could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a printer. However, 3-D printers have become cheaper, and they can now fabricate more and more things. As a result, other types of 3-D printing have emerged.

One of the most exciting aspects of 3-D printing is the increasing popularity of metal 3-D printing. Metal 3-D printing has applications in the gambling industry because it can easily fabricate parts. But, there are other industries that use metal 3-D printing. These include making prototypes, jewelry, parts for machines and kitchens, and miniatures for display.

3-D in the Manufacturing Process

3-D printing has become popular to use in metal manufacturing. That is because of its increasing use as a manufacturer of parts that are mass produced. In the past, it was impossible to do mass production via a 3-D printer. Research has shown that, in some cases, 3-D metal printed parts are just as good as manufactured parts. Sometimes, the 3-D printed part is better than the traditionally manufactured part.

One reason 3-D manufacturing is better in metal printing than the regular manufacturing process is traditional manufacturing is sometimes wasteful. Many times, the traditional manufacturing process has metal or plastic poured into molds. That means that there is a surplus of pieces and waste. For example, the process cuts away 90 percent of the material used to manufacture airplane or car parts. 3-D metal printing uses less energy and nearly cuts out waste during the manufacturing process.

In addition, 3-D printing produces many materials that are much lighter than parts printed through the traditional manufacturing process. For example, in aviation, research has found that the 3-D printed products are 60 percent lighter than parts manufactured traditionally. For aviation companies, this is a huge fuel saver—companies can save billions of dollars on fuel alone.

Companies like 3-D metal printing because they can decide how to distribute the material. Part of it can be thinner in some places and thicker in others to withstand stressors placed on the piece. Engineers can determine how much weight and stress a part can take so it can carry out its intended function. This allows companies to reduce the amount of weight per part, which makes the parts more affordable.

How Does The 3-D Process Work?

The 3-D process works because of the knowledge that printed materials don’t actually become imprinted on the paper. Somehow they hover just on top of the page. So, in theory, you could print the same page over and over again on top of each other. And, eventually, the machine will form a 3-D letter. This was the original idea of the 3-D printer. 3-D printers work to build a physical representation layer by layer.

A 3-D printer works with a designed object and turns it into millions of layers, or slices. The printer creates the object, piece by piece, from the bottom up. Because the slices are so small and thin, they stick together. Many people think that a 3-D printer can create a large piece of something, such as a bike, all at once. That is not possible. However, it is possible to create a whole bike one piece at a time and then assemble it. Because of their size, there are some printing machines that could create a whole bike, assembled, without tools. The larger the machinery is, the more complicated the process is.

The Metal Process

The metal 3-D process begins with a design and a decision about which metals to use. There are several metals available for 3-D printing: aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, gold, platinum, steel, sterling silver, and titanium. While manufacturing uses liquid metal and pours it into molds, 3-D printing uses a metal powder bound in plastic. The printer then prints the powder one layer at a time into the shape of the object. Once printed, the machine cleans the object to remove imperfections. Then, the object undergoes sintering in a furnace. This process turns the metal powder into solid metal.

Wax Models for 3-D Printing

Some specialty metalsmiths use wax models when they print on a 3-D printer. Then, they use those wax models for casting metals. In some cases, the metalsmiths make the models off-site and use them in conjunction with the 3-D printer. Because fine metals can also be delicate, 3-D printers have been able to shape and mold metals in unique and different ways.

Common Misconceptions with 3D Printing

While 3-D printers are amazing, they are not perfect. Each printer has specific properties that a company must consider when choosing a printer and designing a project. There are many 3-D designs that a regular 3-D printer can print. However, these designs won’t print on a metal 3-D printer without changing them. Often, the designs need to be larger because of the changes the metal undergoes when it is in the furnace. You will also need to be sure that the piece will not be too heavy for your printer to handle. In addition, you need to study the different properties of 3-D printed products and manufactured metal products. Because there is a difference, you need to make sure that your 3-D printer part will work for you.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Printing on 3-D Metal

There are several benefits of 3-D printing on metal. The process is reliable, and the results are consistent each time you print the part. The printed metal pieces are strong and lightweight. That makes them perfect for many different industries, such as aircraft, aerospace, and automobiles. The printing process has far less waste than the traditional manufacturing process. Also, some of the manufactured pieces are sometimes too unique and complex for traditional casting.

There are also some drawbacks to printing metal parts via 3-D printing. Sometimes, it is difficult to find the right design for what you want to do with the part. Looking for a design to produce sometimes takes a lot of time. It is also not always easy to mass produce metal 3-D printing. The parts that are printable right now in metal printing are not large parts, but smaller components. It can also be very expensive to do.

Uses for 3-D Printing

There are many different functions for 3-D printing. One of the most common uses is for medical and dental implants, which have become a great option for patients. Airlines and aerospace engineers have also used metal 3-D printing for parts. Automobile parts are also a great use for a 3-D printer. In addition, 3-D printing is useful for prototypes and models. A company can iron out any defect or problem before the part is complete and ready to manufacture.

3-D printing is a wonderful emerging technology when used for metal manufacturing. In the future, it is possible that 3-D printing in metal will be more affordable. Then, businesses can use it to make replacement metal parts for existing pieces, or new attachments. Eventually, metal manufacturing in 3-D will be available in smaller, cheaper printers for business and personal use.

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