Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the way products are created. Instead of taking countless months to engineer and build complex assemblies, additive methods allow firms to prototype designs quickly and efficiently. Engineers can create three-dimensional structures using plastics, steel, aluminum and other materials. Metal Additive Manufacturing is a quickly growing technology that holds amazing potential for production companies.
What Is Metal Additive Manufacturing?
Metal AM is a type of 3D printing that focuses on metals such as titanium and steel. It fuses micron-thick layers of powder to produce fully integrated three-dimensional objects with excellent strength capabilities.
Many traditional manufacturing methods are subtractive. They involve cutting or removing material to arrive at the design required by product specs. For complex shapes, these pieces may later be welded, bolted or otherwise assembled together, which adds to total weight and introduces potential stress areas.
In contrast, Metal AM creates a single, unified component without any seams. Engineers can visualize a complete design in virtual applications and bring it to life almost immediately.
How Does Metal AM Work?
There are numerous types of Metal AM, many of them proprietary technologies, but the majority fall into three main categories:
- Laser melting powder-bed additive system: One or more energy beams are used to fuse metal powder, forming components one layer at a time. Electron Beam Melting and Selective Laser Sintering are two types of powder bed fusion process.
- Directed energy deposition: This additive method applies melted metal material directly to the work surface via several nozzles. The material is melted immediately on deposition using a laser or plasma arc.
- Metal binder jetting: A layer of powder is distributed, and a printer head sprays a liquid binding agent in the areas for adhesion. Another layer of powder is added, and the material fuses in areas with the binding liquid.
The processes used vary between equipment and manufacturers, but the basic principle is the same in all. Components are manufactured layer by layer until a flawless 3D object is produced.
What Are the Advantages of Metal Additive Manufacturing?
There are many reasons why manufacturers, especially firms that focus on short-run or custom orders, should seriously consider adding Metal AM equipment to their repertoire:
Otherwise impossible geometries: Additive manufacturing processes create objects that are impossible to build using other means. These include complex metal support structures with unusual angles or contours.
- Simultaneous construction and assembly: Normally, assemblies take extensive time, testing and production to create. Each part needs to fit careful specs, and the assembly process is often long and involved. With Metal AM, companies can produce fully functional interlocking assemblies
- Lightweight and strong components: Because 3D printing processes don’t require welding, bolts or other extra parts to reinforce structures, Metal AM parts are often lighter than traditional components. This is why Metal AM is a good choice for aviation systems.
- Reduced material waste: In general, additive systems produce far less waste material than subtractive manufacturing. After all, they only require the metal powder used during creation. When working with costly metals such as titanium, this becomes a significant advantage.
- Less equipment required for production: Small-scale projects flow seamlessly with a single Metal AM system, whereas traditional methods may require milling, turning, drilling or welding. This makes AM a valuable way to cut investment costs for specialty firms.
- Costs that ignore complexity: When it comes to 3D designs, there’s no difference in production processes between simple objects or complex ones. In other words, if you can design it on a computer, you can build it using Metal AM without problems.
Produce Custom Components for Your Clients
Metal Additive Manufacturing lends itself naturally to unique components and short-run assemblies. Engineers can turn client specifications into reality like never before. Highlighting Metal AM services on your company website is a great way to stand out from the crowd. Contact Momentum to take industrial marketing to the next level.