Traditionally, manufacturing has been about bringing raw materials and making a product through various processes by removing all that is not necessary, while keeping the required design. Such manufacturing requires use of excess raw materials, which are then finished off to form the required shape and design. It leads to use of excess amount of raw materials that could potentially be wasted during the process.
An alternative form of manufacturing that has been in continuous development and have found multiple use cases is additive manufacturing or 3D printing. Instead of machining or ‘subtracting’ material to form an object, the idea of 3D printing is to add each layer of material on another to create a product. Specialised 3D printers begin printing a solid object once designers and engineers upload a digital computer-aided-design (CAD) file.
METAL AS RAW MATERIAL
Thermoplastics are the most frequently used materials for additive manufacturing. However, machines are capable of 3D printing products from photopolymers, epoxy resins, metals, and others. Metal 3D printing is gaining popularity due to the possible advantages that this material brings when compared to others. For example, additive manufacturing is extensively used to make tools and dyes for special purpose machines, and the fact that these dyes can be made directly in metal is a boon, both in terms of cost-efficiency and quick turnaround.
There are a few main technologies concerning metal-based additive manufacturing – Powder Bed Fusion (PBF), Metal Binder Jetting, Laser Cladding, Direct Energy Deposition (DED) and Material Extrusion. Metal 3D printing brings together the design flexibility of 3D printing with mechanical properties of metal. It finds applications in the products of tooling inserts with cooling channels and lightweight structures for aerospace as well as any application requiring complex metal parts. Some metals used for metal 3D printing include aluminum, titanium, stainless steel and Inconel. Raw materials can be used in the form of metal powder or wire, while the energy source used could be laser/electron beam or arc.
METAL 3D PRINTING METHODS
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