Rochester Institute of Technology: Creating Reactive Metal Inks for 3D Printing

In the recently published ‘Three Dimensional Digital Alloying with Reactive Metal Inks,’ author Chaitanya G. Mahajan submitted a dissertation for a PhD at the Kate Gleason College of Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology, exploring new ways to 3D print multifunctional components with multiple materials.

Mahajan extensively explores the theory of nanoalloys, including details on core-shell nanoalloys, subcluster nanoalloys, mixed nanoalloys, multishell nanoalloys, along with the factors influencing their structure from strength of atomic bonding to surface energies of bulk elements, atomic size, and more.

The author discusses the variety of nanoalloys, created via a chemical, bottom-up method, as well as a physical top-down method. With bulk metal broken into nanosized particles for the top-down technique, for bottom-up, both atoms and molecules are brought together to construct nanoparticles.

“The main advantage of the top-down approaches is that bulk quantities of nanoparticles can be produced within a short span of time. However, the bottom-up approaches have the advantage of a more homogenous structure with more ordered crystallography within the nanoparticle,” states Mahajan.

The author explains that many applications use alloy nanoparticles; for example, they are employed in biomedical applications for in vivo and in vitro studies. Such materials exhibiting shape-memory effect will be even more useful.

Metal inks are used either with nanoparticles (top-down) or metal-organic decomposition (bottom-up approach) precursor inks, with the active material comprised of a nanoparticle suspension.

Top-down and bottom-up approaches for the synthesis of nanoparticles

“Additives such as surfactants are added to modify the surface tension of the ink, whereas dispersants are added to avoid agglomeration of the nanoparticles in the carrier solvent. To get rid of the carrier solvent, the printed pattern is thermally sintered to form a metallic layer,” stated the author.

Schematic overview of different approaches to form a metallic structure onto a substrate

Here, Mahajan presents a binary copper-nickel system to form an alloy with metal precursor inks, avoiding the typical clogging issues found with nanoparticle suspensions.

For this study, both copper and nickel inks were created for the purpose of inkjet printing, with reduction examined under a range of conditions. Both metal and alloy were then characterized using:

  • Thermal analysis
  • Infrared spectroscopy
  • Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS)
  • X-ray diffraction

“To achieve a homogeneous alloy formation, the copper phase and the nickel rich phase were diffused together at high temperatures,” stated the author. “Copper nickel alloy inks with ratios Cu30Ni70, Cu50Ni50, and Cu70Ni30 were formulated and reduced at 230 °C and later high-temperature diffusion was achieved at 800 °C.

“The lattice parameter of the alloy phase for the inks with ratio Cu30Ni70 was 3.5533Å, Cu50Ni50 was 3.5658 Å, and Cu70Ni30 was 3.5921 Å. Using Vegard’s law, the composition of the alloy phases for the three samples was estimated to be Cu32Ni68, Cu46Ni54, and Cu75Ni25. This formation of the desired alloy composition can open the door to numerous applications in the biomedical and electronics sectors, among others.

No segregations were seen for the samples that were sintered in vacuum and in the inert atmosphere; however, XRD analysis of the sintered alloy demonstrated both copper and bimetallic copper-nickel phases.

“To print a part with desired alloy composition, each layer can be printed and reduced over and over to build up a 3D structure. The final printed 3D part can be placed in a high-temperature furnace to achieve diffusion and form a homogenous alloy structure,” concluded the author.

“As the weight percentage of copper and nickel in the precursor inks presented were 6.5% and 4.5 % respectively, the number of printing and reducing steps increases to print a 3D part. The printing time can be reduced by increasing the drop volume of the ink or by increasing the solid content of the ink.”

3D printing has not only sparked innovation around the world, but also the study of materials—and especially inks—from direct ink writing to fiber ink, and even chocolate ink.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

Schematic illustration of printing a Ni precursor ink and sintering it in presence of homogeneous magnetic field to reduce the nickel complex to aligned nanowires. Reproduced from [23] licensed under CC by 4.0

[Source / Images: ‘Three Dimensional Digital Alloying with Reactive Metal Inks’]

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What Makes for a Great 3D Printing Webinar?

Tools and insights to help people choose the right 3D printer, materials, or become more knowledgable about how disruptive technologies can benefit the industry, are very important.  This is one of the reasons why a lot of well-established companies and startups are turning to webinars to help users boost their understanding of a 3D printer they already own or to attract new customers. Nevertheless, webinars take up time, usually around an hour or more. On average people spent one-third of their time on work and around five hours a day for leisure (at least in the US), so whether you’re taking time out of a work project, using your much-needed coffee break at the office or staying up late at night, that webinar should be worth it for you to consider it.

Faris Sheikh using Form 3 during a webinar

With so many different types of manufacturing methods available, it’s difficult to decide which one is better suited for your needs, and the overwhelming amount of 3D printers currently on the market makes choosing one challenging, even more so if you need to add software, scanning devices and post-processing machines. 3DPrint.com has been surfing through quite a few webinars; these online sessions are great sources to become more informed about the technology and how to use it. Over the last year, we have tagged along with Faris Sheikh, a growth marketing specialist at Formlabs, to get a glimpse of the company’s new Form 3 printer; witnessed a live demonstration on how Markforged‘s new Blacksmith AI software can help us accurately design 3D printed parts, and learned how to take advantage of high-strength thermoplastics PEEK, PEKK, and ULTEM from specialists at Montreal-based firm AON3D. Balancing so much information is fun, and we learned a lot, yet choosing the right webinar is not easy so we have summarized the top qualities we consider can take your online viewing experience from great to amazing.

Before signing up for your next webinar you might want to read over our six-pointers. We consider a live demonstration to be on the top of our list, followed by experienced public speakers who will address at least one of the challenges when working with the product, as well as allowing for a Q&A session since we have noticed that some of the most interesting tips arise from audience questions; examples of some of the successful experiences are a great way to illustrate what can be achieved with a product, and finally, we give a lot of credit to webinars that stick to the originally scheduled time frame (remember, time is a valuable commodity).

We love powerpoints, they are great visual aids, and extremely useful when speakers need to convey complex terminology and a lot of information. However powerpoints during a 3D printing webinar are ok for a few minutes, but the audience can benefit much more from a live show, watching someone on screen explain a particular process makes the webinar worth your time. We have witnessed almost everything, from scanning and designing parts with CAD software to preparing a machine for printing.

Using Dot3D’s ruggedized tablet, software and RealSense camera for 3D scanning

Last May, 3D scanning enthusiasts were able to tune in to a webinar to witness a live broadcast of DotProduct’s Dot3D during scanning, this is one of the firm’s professional handheld 3D capture solutions which has joined forces with Intel RealSense to better capture real-time 3D data, making both indoor and outdoor 3D capture possible. One of the highlights of the session was a demonstration by company specialist Chris Ahern who performed a live daylight 3D scan of a sample field pipeline, using RealSense’s D415. After capture, Ahern moved onto optimization for cleaning any noise recognized from the data, done within just a few minutes and with ease, showing what it takes to handle the scanning features and post-data analysis. During this webinar, the audience was able to appreciate a walk through all the steps necessary to perform the scan as well as observe how Ahern dealt with one of the more challenging features, needing to manipulate the output a bit to get the acceptable quality required. This is a great example of a company that was able to channel a lot of the qualities we value most.

Some processes like metal printing and machining are not as easy to demonstrate live. In this case, webinars with lots of examples and information supporting the process are very well received by an audience, which is usually more knowledgeable about the specific process and expects to hear about successful cases and know-how. For example, one of Optomec‘s latest webinars proved how useful the company’s laser engineered net shaping (LENS) technology could be when applied on sustainable repairs to some of the most complex machinery around, including plane parts and tank gear repairs. Here, examples were paramount to convey the benefits of the complex machining process.

How Optomec was able to repair broken teeth on a gear thanks to their LENS repair machine

Webinars are one of the most effective online marketing tactics for any business, they usually bring in new customers and help keep users up to date on the latest advances in the technology that they bought. A great way to engage the audience is through a robust Q&A session. Since questions usually come in throughout the presentation, the speaker can choose a few to answer at the end, but we noticed that some of the best webinars have specialists really committed to dealing with unusual and interesting questions. Sauber Motorsport AG (the company operating the Alfa Romeo Sauber Formula 1 Team), went deep into the underlying benefits of SLS additive manufacturing processes during the Q&A of their on-demand webinar, talking about everything from accuracy to printing with different materials. Expert Richard Broad didn’t hold back in the question session proving that this is one of the reasons we really enjoyed their presentation.

Online webinar sessions usually go for an hour tops, so when they extend beyond the allotted time, it can be a bit daunting, the audience usually loses interest and can get easily bored. An average 3D printing webinar should last around 45 minutes, with presentations usually ending after 30 minutes, followed by 10 to 15 minutes for answering questions. However if a speaker will not stop at 30 minutes, presentations can last an hour or more. If companies expect their audience to keep coming back for more online sessions, they need to prove that they can deliver all the necessary information in the promised time.

Web conferences aren’t new, the first ones date from the 1990s and companies have been using them as a tool for years. Today 3D printing webinars are getting better, allowing for audiences around the world to interact, by asking live questions or filling out surveys (which later help the company determine who is tuning in, where from and what industry they work in); having some of the most experienced employees offer technical demonstrations for viewers, and especially trying to prove that their product is worth considering. We’re really looking forward to future webinars, trying to imagine what some of the most innovative minds out there could come up with to engage audiences with their product, such as using virtual reality to help viewers become even more immersed in an interactive webinar experience, or for companies with large room-size machines, a walk through their processes to witness how the systems work would be amazing. But for now, we’ll stick to our six points. What other qualities would make a 3D printing webinar experience worth your viewing time? Join in the discussion.

[Images: 3DPrint.com, Dot3D, Formlabs and Optomec]

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Fraunhofer ILT: Making Tungsten Carbide-Cobalt Cutting Tools with LPBF 3D Printing

Obviously, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT does a lot of work with lasers, and, in the same vein, with metal 3D printing processes that use lasers. Now, it’s teaming up with scientists from the Institute for Materials Applications in Mechanical Engineering IWM and the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering WZL, both at RWTH Aachen University, to investigate laser processes for the 3D printing of cutting tools made of tungsten carbide-cobalt (WC-Co).

The new AiF project – “Additive Manufacturing of Machining Tools out of WC-Co – AM of WC-Co” – began on October 1st 2019 and will last for 30 months; funding is provided by the Otto von Guericke e.V. working group of industrial research associations.

Cutting tools made of WC-Co are very heat- and wear-resistant, which is what one generally wants in this type of application, but it’s not easy to use conventional methods of manufacturing to create them. Complex sintering processes are currently used, but it’s not ideal, as only a restricted amount of geometrical freedom is possible, and it’s expensive and difficult to introduce complex cooling structures into the tools as well.

The process development aims to generate a homogeneous, almost dense structure of the WC-Co-composite, as shown here in this SEM measurement. [Image: Institute for Materials Applications in Mechanical Engineering IWM, RWTH Aachen University]

One of the project goals is to create cutting tools with integrated complex cooling geometries in order to ensure longer tool life. That’s why the Aachen researchers are looking into Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) 3D printing for WC-Co cutting tool fabrication, which offers near-net-shape production for generation of cooling structures within these tools, and far more design freedom. This technology requires users to carefully choose their process and material parameters in order to create components with strength that’s comparable to what could be achieved with conventional manufacturing methods.

For the past few years, Fraunhofer ILT scientists have been researching a major problem in the LPBF process – temperature distribution in the part. Conventional systems slow down the cooling process with a heated base plate, but with LPBF, the metal powder is melted where the laser touches it and cools down quickly, which can cause cracks and tension.

Fraunhofer ILT has been working with adphos Innovative Technologies GmbH on this issue, and together the two created a system which uses a near-infrared (NIR) emitter to heat the component from above to over 800°C. This system is what Fraunhofer ILT and its fellow Aachen researchers are using to process tungsten carbide-cobalt material for cutting tools in the “AM of WC-Co” project.

Under the scope of the project, the researchers are investigating the process route all the way from powder formation and 3D printing to post-processing and testing the components. Together, they will qualify the materials and processes that will replace complex sintering processes in fabricating these cutting tools.

Preheating the machining plane with the NIR module significantly reduces stresses in the laser-manufactured component. [Image: Fraunhofer ILT]

3D printed WC-Co cutting tools will have a hardness comparable to those made with conventional manufacturing methods, but because of the cooling structures that the LPBF process can be used to create, they will have a longer service life. Additionally, the NIR emitter system developed by Fraunhofer ILT and adphos can lay the groundwork for processing refractory alloy systems in the future.

At formnext 2019, in Frankfurt from November 19-22, you can stop by the Fraunhofer Additive Manufacturing Alliance booth D51 in Hall 11 to learn more about the collaborative “AM of Wc-CO” project.

Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below. 

[Source: Fraunhofer ILT]

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Metal Filament 3D Printing of 316L Stainless Steel on a Prusa i3

In the recently published ‘Metal Filament 3D Printing of SS316L: Focusing on the printing process,’ thesis student Karthikesh Gante Lokesha Renukaradhya for the Machine Design track in Industrial Engineering and Management program at the Royal Institute of Technology explores additive manufacturing with metal. Analyzing previous studies, the author notes previous challenges and obstacles like expense and lack of availability for all users.

Product development cycle

Here, the author focuses on a new AM technique using a metal-polymer composite filament to create a stainless steel 316L part on an FDM 3D printer. With the use of a Prusa 3D printer, two comparisons were offered, beginning at the technical level using polymer techniques, and then the material level using stainless steel filament.

In the research, the following impacts were also analyzed:

  • Printing temperatures
  • Nozzle types
  • Printing patterns
  • Adhesion between layers

Previous studies have shown that fused filament fabrication (FFF, FDM) has great potential for manufacturing with metals, and especially those with complex geometries:

“Additionally, FFF technology proves to have an edge over other methodologies, in terms of simple and effortless change of material. The tailored Fused Filament Fabrication allows printing green parts out of 316L stainless steel feedstock effortlessly, however, the surface properties obtained were not found to be satisfactory for the surface critical applications without after treatment. Scope for further research could possibly be a combination of green part printing and surface polishing procedure in one print head,” states the author.

While FDM 3D printing is popular for fabrication with polymers, previous studies have shown that metal filament is not as easy to come by and can be cost-prohibitive too. The researchers note that with the use of infill and a significant increase in density, ‘both the mechanical strength and production cost will increase proportionately.’

The internal geometry of the printed part with different infill density

Samples were assessed in terms of printing parameters, with samples showing better success when printed at 210◦C rather than 235◦C. The sample exhibited a ‘well-packed structure’ with no signs of cracking at all. The geometric resolution was good too.

Microscopic (5x) images of green body test specimen printed at 210◦C

There were some issues with debinding because of a rapid rise in temperature. The author found that slow and steady temperature increases led to greater success along with the use of supports and good airflow.

 “The main practical conclusion of this study was the results obtained with different printing parameters, the structural integrity which influences the mechanical property and geometric resolution. Another advantage of this developed FDM process is that the system allows for a straightforward change of material, as only a new filament has to be inserted into the print head, unlike the other AM techniques which are a time-consuming process,” concluded the researchers.

“Debinding and sintering of the sample was the most challenging part and to control all the parameters added up to the challenge. After a series of trials, a set of parameters and equipment were selected with minor parameter alterations if necessary. It was also found out that the shrinkage rate from the green part of the final metal part varied in x, y and z directions. Virtual foundry stainless steel 316L is an upcoming and encouraging way of producing metal Additive Manufacturing parts and there is always space for future investigation in this area of Additive Manufacturing.”

Metal 3D printing has just continued to grow and has garnered interest not only by industrial users but many researchers too as they perform studies on how to eliminate porosity, combine traditional and new metal printing techniques, and create new superalloys. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source / Images: ‘Metal Filament 3D Printing of SS316L: Focusing on the printing process’]

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3D Printing News Briefs: October 6, 2019

We’ve got lots of material news for you in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, starting with a Material Development Kit from RPS. Polymaker and Covestro are releasing three new materials and EOS has introduced a new TPU material for industrial 3D printing. Moving on, CASTOR and Stanley Black & Decker used EOS 3D printing to reduce costs and lead time, and Velo3D is partnering with PWR to make high performance heat exchangers.

RPS Introduces Material Development Kit for NEO800

UK 3D printer manufacturer RPS just launched its NEO Material Development Kit, which was designed by company engineers to be used as a polymer research and development tool for its NEO800 SLA 3D printer. The MDK comes in multiple platform and vat sizes, and allows developers to work with different resin formulations, so that R&D companies can work to develop a range of polymers that are not available in today’s industry. Users can print single layer exposure panes with Titanium software and the 1 liter vat in order to find the photo-speed of the formulation they’re developing; then, tensile testing of different material formulations can commence. Once this initial testing is finished, developers can scale up to the 13 liter vat – perfect for 3D printing prototype parts for use in optimizing final configuration settings.

“This NEO Material Development Kit now opens the door for large industrial chemical companies such as BASF, DSM and Heinkel to push the boundaries of UV photopolymers,” said David Storey, the Director of RPS. “The industry is looking for a quantum jump in materials to print end-user production parts from the stereolithography process.”

New Polycarbonate-Based Materials by Polymaker and Covestro

Advanced 3D printing materials leader Polymaker and polymer company Covestro are teaming up to launch three polycarbonate-based materials. These versatile new materials coming to the market each have unique properties that are used often in a variety of different industries.

The first is PC-ABS, a polycarbonate and ABS blend which uses Covestro’s Bayblend family as its base material. Due to its high impact and heat resistance, this material is specialized for surface finishings such as metallization and electroplating, so it’s good for post-processing work. Polymaker PC-PBT, which blends the toughness and strength of polycarbonate with PBT’s high chemical resistance, is created from Covestro’s Makroblend family and performs well under extreme circumstances, whether it’s subzero temperatures or coming into contact with hydrocarbon-based chemicals. Finally, PolyMax PC-FR is a flame retardant material that’s based in Covestro’s Makrolon family and has a good balance between safety and mechanical performance – perfect for applications in aerospace motor mounts and battery housings.

EOS Offers New Flexible TPU Material

In another materials news, EOS has launched TPU 1301, a new flexible polymer for industrial, serial 3D printing. Available immediately, this thermoplastic polyurethane has high UV-stability, great resilience, and good hydrolysis resistance as well. TPU materials are often used in applications that require easy process capabilities and elastomeric properties, so this is a great step to take towards 3D printing mass production.

“The EOS TPU 1301 offers a great resilience after deformation, very good shock absorption, and very high process stability, at the same time providing a smooth surface of the 3D printed part,” said Tim Rüttermann, the Senior Vice President for Polymer Systems & Materials at EOS. “As such the material is particularly suited for applications in footwear, lifestyle and automotive – such as cushioning elements, protective gears, and shoe soles.”

You can see application examples for TPU 1301 at the EOS booth D31, hall 11.1, at formnext in Frankfurt next month, and the material will also be featured by the company at K Fair in Dusseldorf next week.

CASTOR, Stanley Black & Decker, and EOS Reduce Costs and Lead Time

Speaking of EOS, Stanley Black & Decker recently worked with Tel Aviv startup CASTOR to majorly reduce the lead time, and cost, for an end-use metal production part that was 3D printed on EOS machinery. This was the first time that 3D printing has been incorporated into the production line of Stanley Engineered Fastening. In a CASTOR video, EOS North America’s Business Development Manager Jon Walker explained that for most companies, the issue isn’t deciding if they want to use AM, but rather how and where to use it…which is where CASTOR enters.

“They have a very cool software in which we can just upload the part of the assembly CAD file, and within a matter of minutes, it can automatically analyze the part, and give us the feasibility of whether the part is suitable for additive manufacturing or not. And in case it is not suitable, it can also let us know why it is not suitable, and what needs to be changed. It can also tell us what is the approximate cost, which material and printer we can use,” said Moses Pezarkar, a Manufacturing Engineer at Stanley’s Smart Factory, in the video.

To learn more, check out the case study, or watch the video below:

PWR and Velo3D Collaborating on 3D Printed Heat Exchangers

Cooling solutions supplier PWR and Velo3D have entered into a collaborative materials development partnership for serial manufacturing of next-generation heat exchangers, and for the Sapphire metal 3D printer. PWR will be the first in the APAC region to have a production Sapphire machine, which it will use to explore high-performance thermal management strategies through 3D printing for multiple heat exchange applications. Together, the two companies will work on developing aluminum alloy designs with more complex, thinner heat exchange features.

“PWR chose Velo3D after extensive testing. The Velo3D Sapphire printer demonstrated the ability to produce class-leading thin-wall capabilities and high-quality surfaces with zero porosity. Velo3D and PWR share a passion for pushing the limits of technology to deliver truly disruptive, class-leading, products. We are a natural fit and look forward to building a strong partnership going forward,” said Matthew Bryson, the General Manager of Engineering for PWR.

“Heat exchanger weight and pressure-drop characteristics have a huge impact on performance and are significant factors in all motorsport categories. Using additive manufacturing to print lightweight structures, enhancing performance with freedom-of-design, we have the ability to further optimize these characteristics to the customer’s requirements whilst providing the necessary cooling. The broad design capabilities and extremely high print accuracy of the Velo3D Sapphire 3D metal printer will help us optimize these various performance attributes.”

Discuss these stories and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Custom Prototypes Creates a Unique Metal 3D Printed Faucet

This week a Toronto based 3D printing company, Custom Prototypes, revealed an impressive metal 3D printing project, an intricately designed bathroom faucet 3D printed in stainless steel.

Over the past couple of months, Custom Prototypes has been busy fulfilling an urgent request from an interior design company to help aid with a special project. Custom Prototypes was asked to help design and build a one of a kind bathroom faucet for a new house construction.

The interior design company had been planning the look of this house for years and wanted to push the boundaries of traditional design. Each room was set to tell a unique story and draw inspiration from all of the home owner’s life travels. 

For the house’s main floor bathroom the vision was to recreate the experience of feeling like you were in a water garden. As a child growing up in Kashmir, India, the house owner had spent endless hours paddling the rivers and picking lotus flowers.

Custom Prototypes took the symbolic Lotus flower and used it to guide their design thought process. The goal for them was to achieve a product that could act as a standalone art piece even when not being used.

Once the general idea was proposed, they began to sketch up some abstract ideas on paper eventually starting to digitally sculpt it using Freeform.

One of the biggest challenges they had to face was to make sure the faucet not only achieved the aesthetic the house owner and interior design company were aiming for, but also to make sure they would actually be able to build it. The design of the base had six very small winding structures which were all hollow to allow water to flow freely, making metal 3D printing the only option.

The faucet was 3D printed in stainless steel on a DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) machine. They managed to print the entire part with no internal supports making it possible to remove any excess metal powder left inside.

If you have any questions about metal 3D printing or would like Custom Prototypes to guide you in creating your own custom product, please email info@customprototypes.ca

ABOUT Custom Prototypes:

Custom Prototypes is a rapid prototyping company located in Toronto, Canada. They are a local service bureau specializing in 3D printing working for industries ranging from automotive, to medical to general consumer product.

They have made international headlines and received a variety of awards over the years with a broad scope of projects. They are best known for their 2018 AMUG award winner with an entry of their creation of Marc Antony’s helmet using only 3D printing materials. Other well-known projects include their award winning reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and their stained glass window made only with 3D printing.

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Markforged Metal X Now Lets You 3D Print in Inconel 625

Metal and composite 3D printer manufacturer Markforged has now released Inconel 625 for the Metal X system, bringing a high-performance nickel superalloy to many more users.

Inconel 625 is used in many high-performance applications where corrosion resistance and temperature resistance are sought qualities. 625 is used in turbines, piping, valves, specialized industrial equipment, hydraulics and in flow applications. It is used in the nuclear and defense industry as well as aerospace, oil, power, chemical, and the marine industry. 625 has already been available on the Exone systems for a few years and recently was made available for Digital Metal. Sandvik, Hoganas, and AP&C already offered 625 for the Powder Bed Fusion market. SLM Solutions, Admatec, 3D Systems, GE and EOS machines let you print in the material. You could order 3D printed 625 parts from Stratasys Direct and others as well.

The systems and setups you would need to successfully print Inconel 625 would be quite extensive and expensive, however. Conventionally manufacturing 625 was often also complex. What Markforged is now doing is making this material an option for many more applications and users. The Markforged Metal X is available for around $100,000. This is a fraction (15% to 5%) of what you’d need to spend with other manufacturers to be able to 3D print 625. Along with a washing, debinding and sintering step the Metal X lets you in a relatively affordable way print parts. Binder jetting metals is still difficult with new geometries and different wall thicknesses and sizes leading to different shrinkages. So ten thousand of the same or similar parts should not be a problem but 10,000 completely unique parts would be. Traditionally as well we think of Powder Bed Fusion as providing us with higher performance more accurate parts than binder jet.

The Metal X set up (is it ten or X, I’ve never asked)

But Markforged is opening a niche here in manufacturing which is a very exciting one. Yes, there is a burgeoning market for Powder Bed Fusion for qualified parts for nuclear, marine and aviation. This market alone in the relatively exotic 625 material is potentially huge. An even broader market exists around this market in processing, marine, automotive, flow, power, defense and oil and gas. This market is huge. Localized production of defense products in-country at the base or at the oilfield alone is a vast market. In light of recent events in Saudi Arabia, 5% of global crude production has been halted for a number of weeks or perhaps months. The Abqaiq attack exposed Aramco to loses of $200 million per day. In that kind of money no object, scenario local production of replacement parts, valves, pipes, and fittings would be a welcome addition for Aramco and many other NOCs. We think that we’re always so cool in 3D printing but our effects and uses represent a considerable impact on small elements of industries to which ours is a rounding error. If the loses from Abqaiq last as much as two months, one firm Aramco, will have forgone in revenue from one damaged site what our entire industry generates in revenue per year.

The US navy seems intent on putting 3D printers on aircraft carriers and other ships. For some reason, they have a penchant for Powder Bed Fusion. I think putting a laser and powder system which needs argon to run onboard an aircraft carrier is lunacy. But, a Metal X system may be much easier for the Navy to operate safely. Surely it will tend to explode less? At the same time, one would expect fewer problems with the whole you know, moving boat thing. Given what is at stake in the Navy with delays, the potential of underway replenishment is also considerable. Onboard 3D printing also makes a lot of sense for some commercial shipping and offshore.

I’m on the whole very skeptical of binder jet but very bullish on the prospects of 3D printing for marine and oil and gas applications. There is incredible unexploited potential there. On time, small series, weight-saving or flow-optimized parts produced in place is exactly the sweet spot of 3D printing. I really believe that Markforged has real potential here to open three multi-billion-dollar markets for 3D printing: in defense local spares, marine and oil, and gas. Apart from Ivaldi, some work by Voestalpine, SLM and Aidro, no one is paying attention to oil and gas or marine. In April we looked at shipboard 3D printing but while this area is expanding it lags significantly behind aviation and even automotive in the adoption of 3D printing.

Jon Reilly, VP of Product at Markforged says that, 

“Inconel is traditionally a difficult and expensive material to work with. Before Markforged, many would have to wait for a contract supplier, invest significantly in mold creation, or purchase a powder-based process that requires intensive facility build-outs and highly trained technicians, Now manufacturing Inconel is fast, safe, and affordable.”

The launch customer is also Nieka Systems which makes “sample preparation equipment for the mining and cement production industries” and has “3D printed Inconel crucible clips to hold samples in place while rapidly and repeatedly cycling between high and low temperatures. The team can now print the same batch of parts in-house 10x cheaper and in just a few days instead of waiting four weeks for the 3D printed parts to be delivered from a third-party supplier.”

You can read more on the case study here.

There is a lot to be stated for this kind of in time local production by regular industry as well. Whereas I’m super skeptical about metal binder jet being used for many different unique parts, using it for standardized parts, replacement parts and consumables to me has a really exciting future. I’d love for ruggedized Metal X systems to be offered certified for use onboard vessels and able to produce certified and qualified parts for oil and gas as well as marine applications. For now, being able to cost-effectively print 625 moves us all a bit closer to where we want to be.

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3D Printing in Space: Metal Printing in µ‐Gravity Shows Promise

3D printing in micro gravity is garnering growing interest from scientists and aerospace engineers—and especially as such activity grows at the International Space Station. German and French researchers explore the topic of printing in microgravity in the recently published, ‘Enabling the 3D Printing of Metal Components in µ‐Gravity.’ Concerned with creating strategies for working and living in space, the research team delves into the possible challenges of additive manufacturing in metal—with little gravity.

Additive manufacturing has been a boon to many different companies and organizations around the world, but especially the aerospace sector and NASA. Because creating spare parts can be so expensive and so challenging, 3D printing and AM processes are enticing with benefits like exponentially greater affordability, speed in production, and more, including the integration of robots.

In this study, the researchers aimed to create metal parts in space from 1 to 500mm. Larger structures could be created too, allowing for almost all parts on a spacecraft to be fabricated via laser beam melting (LBM), and in a wide range of materials—from titanium to nickel-based alloys.

LBM technology is currently being used in many different applications, including:

  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • Tool manufacturing
  • Medical

“The selection of LBM as a process for fabricating aerospace components was primarily based on the weight ratio between the raw material required for machining a component and the weight of the component itself. For conventional fabrication technologies, this ‘buy‐to‐fly’ ratio can be as high as 15–20 for flying components, adding a lot of cost to the component for material and machining,” state the researchers.

Offering a buy-to-fly ratio of almost 1, LBM processes offer a list of benefits, beginning with the fact that parts can be manufactured in nearly any shape, created from powder that results in little waste, if any. Dealing with spare parts is key—especially today at the ISS, where in the past shipments have been known to fail due to unsuccessful launches.

“Even losing a tool in the station or during a spacewalk may be problematic for astronauts and mission,” state the researchers. “Despite careful tracking, in average roughly two percent of all spare parts in the ISS, summing up to about 2000 components, are at any time lost.”

3D printing is the logical choice as 3D files can be sent via email for parts to be created on demand and on site. With a ‘virtual tool-box’ to work from, as well as relying on files sent from Earth, astronauts could see their jobs more streamlined in the future—and especially if they are living as far away as Mars where resupply missions are rare or impossible. Much of this depends on success in microgravity manufacturing, however, along with the requirements for 3D printers and materials to be sent along with the crew.

Time needed to reach the ISS, Moon, and Mars as function of their distance to Earth. The values for the required travel times to reach a respective object are based on literature values for different flight trajectories and maneuvers. The Earth–Moon distance considered is at the perigee; for the Earth–Mars distance, filled symbols show the average minimum distance, which is reached every ≈26 months. Open symbols show the maximum distance Earth–Mars and hypothetical flight time, although it is to be expected that flight missions are and will be feasible only when Mars is close to its minimum distance.

Currently, the ISS uses an FM 3D printer that was quite famously delivered by Made in Space. The astronauts have also quite famously fabricated numerous 3D printed parts, mainly in the form of tools, with a wrench being their first success. And while that has been an enormous achievement, the FDM printer may be too basic for their expanding needs in the future, with a priority on functionality.

Schematic of the powder deposition unit. The area of the porous building platform for the powder deposition was 106.5 × 85.5 mm2.

“Laser‐based AM in particular would enable the fabrication of high‐performance metals and thermoplastic polymers in space,” state the researchers.

While powder has previously been eschewed as too difficult for production in space, the research team explains that new advances could make LBM processes suitable for the in µ‐g environment now, using a technique that could stabilize powder in space by creating a flow of gas throughout the powder bed. A porous building platform is used as a filter for ‘fixation of metal particles in a gas flow.’

Drag force Fd and gravitational force Fg compared for stainless steel spheres at different acceleration values and for different particle sizes

“It could be shown, that the drag forces provided by the gas flow are comparable or even exceeding the forces acting on the particles in µ‐g acceleration conditions (<0.01 g) for particles with a diameter of 38 µm (which is the D50 of the powder used in this work),” concluded the researchers.

“In this study, the worldwide first metallic tool, a 12 mm wrench has been manufactured by LBM at µ‐g conditions. Moreover, other parts have been manufactured at different accelerations provided by a parabolic flight, that is, hyper gravity (1.8 g), µ‐g (<0.01 g), and 1 g. In a first survey of the parts microstructure, no significant deviations from a part manufactured at 1 g conditions have been found. Hence, the current work has presented the first results on the feasibility of an LBM process for additively manufactured ready to use metal parts in space.”

Specimens manufactured in different g conditions, top view, and inclined side‐view; left: 1 g; right: µ‐g.

Metal 3D printing encompasses many different techniques today aside from that of space, and for a wide variety of different industrial purposes—and with many different types of powders and materials that are being continually still being experimented with here on Earth, from ceramic to nanocomposites to copper.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

Schematic of an airplane flying a maneuver defined as “parabola.” The airplane image is courtesy of Novespace.

a) Top view of the deposition chamber, showing the laser scanner and optics, two oxygen sensors, two pressure gauges, and two overpressure safety valves b) view of the deposition unit during cleaning after a parabolic flight, showing the wrenches produced by LBM still partially embedded in the powder bed c) top view of the porous metal base plate and of the wrenches manufactured in µ‐gravity d) 12 mm wrench manufactured in µ‐gravity, after separation from the base plate. The base plate has a size of 106.5 × 85.5 mm2.

[Source / Images: ‘Enabling the 3D Printing of Metal Components in µ‐Gravity’]

 

 

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Admatec Releases Industrial Monitoring System for Ceramic & Metal 3D Printing

Dutch-based Admatec has just announced the release of a monitoring system for advanced industrial ceramic and metal additive manufacturing, offering a bevy of features that should catch the attention of many users engaged in applications for areas like biomedical, aerospace, aesthetics, and more. The launch details new advantages like:

  • Full documentation and traceability
  • Capabilities geared toward highly demanding industries
  • Layer detection
  • Foil movement
  • Time-lapse videos

Used with the Admatec Admaflex 130 3D printer (and materials to include Alumina, Zirconia, and Fused Silica, and metal such as 316L, 17-4-PH, Inconel 625 and Copper), the monitoring system allows the operator to view the print process and record it on a layer-by-layer process:

“For example, if a build platform would print 180 products with just one failing during the process, the monitoring system will detect this and proceed with the other 179 parts to finalize successfully. Whereas with a more traditional approach like VAT this would mean the full run has instantly failed,” states the Admatec team in their latest press release.

In series production, users are able to ‘upscale’ without tooling and make changes quickly to important features like size, materials, and shape and structure. The integrated DLP light engine offers users the ability to perform large surface printing, with precision and resolution, also manufacturing small, detailed parts. Ceramic materials, known to be ‘superior,’ can still be challenging to work with. In 3D printing, this material acts as the catalyst for designing parts and prototypes that would not have been possible otherwise. This is a common benefit of 3D printing and additive manufacturing, along with offering a route to bring obsolete parts back to life too once they have been scanned.

Commercially launched in 2016, many Admaflex 130 3D printers have been installed around the world, also resulting in valuable customer feedback, allowing Admatec’s research and development group to create stronger products—with a focus on a customized approach. Admatec customers have the luxury of choosing options, creating a tailor-made 3D printer and choosing features to assist in high print quality, speed, and even an add-on for printing in metal, along with the vision-based monitoring system.

“We are constantly working to improve not only with new hardware and material development but also in functionality and productivity. Through software updates that aim at benefiting our existing customer base while improving the efficiency of the technology,” stated Admatec COO, Jaco Saurwalt.

Admatec sees the potential for both ceramic and metal to have enormous impacts on a variety of industries, especially with the ability to cut costs and offer flexibility and the path to upscale production.

“We are witnessing a gradual change in ceramic AM, from being used mostly as a research and development tool to an actual production method, especially for investment casting and aesthetic applications,” says Nadia Yaakoubi, business developer at Admatec.

3D printing in both ceramics and metal is becoming increasingly popular from creating titanium matrix composites to 3D printed robots and even glass ceramics. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source / Images: Admatec]

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CeramicSpeed Collaborates with DTI for 3D Printed Bike Part

Germany’s SLM Solutions was a major catalyst recently in expanding manufacturing for a specific 3D printed bicycle part designed by CeramicSpeed, a Danish cycling company working in cooperation with selective laser melting experts Danish Technological Institute. Partnering to improve performance in cycling, the innovators worked together to create a durable titanium pulley wheel.

Testing this new part in this year’s Tour de France, the group of innovators found that the part was both road- and race-worthy. This is not CeramicSpeed’s first revolutionary part, however, as they continue to make a difference in professional cycling with components like ceramic bearings. In working with DTI, they can produce their parts on either a quad-laser SLM®500 or twin SLM®280 system.

“3D printing technology has given us a lot of leeway to experiment creatively with design, while at the same time being able to optimize a product’s function,” Carsten Ebbesen, R&D Manager at CeramicSpeed stated. “The collaboration with DTI has led us to develop and produce gears in a radically new design form that is only possible with 3D printing.”

All the classic benefits of 3D printing can be put to use in fabrication of bicycles and bicycle parts, not only because of affordability and speed in production, but also the ability to produce extremely lightweight components—some of which may not have been possible before, as in the creation of the pulleys, made with 17 spokes, a 2 mm diameter, and a wall thickness of only 0.4 mm. The developers state that with the hollow design, they have even been able to reduce the sprocket weight to 8.4 grams.

“The hollow geometry of the objects cannot be produced with conventional methods, and the 3D printing in combination with subsequent specialized processes leads to a unique innovative product,” said Thor Bramsen, Industrialization Manager at the Danish Technological Institute.

The new gears produced in this project have passed rigorous testing also, proving their quality—along with offering great durability, corrosion resistance, and low-density strength. Wear is a central focus as the pulley wheels are attached to the outer gears. Titanium was chosen as the ultimate material for these complex structures due to its mechanical properties.

Quality parts are built in serial production at DTI, as a result of a coordinated process chain relying on SLM Solutions AM hardware, which included remaining true to the client’s design, adding material for areas in need of CNC machining, and both optimizing support and minimizing the wall diameter and weight. DTI was put to the test during the project, with their team using their entire range of manufacturing knowledge from the beginning—and ending only at the time of delivery.

As a supplier and partner in metal AM manufacturing, SLM Solutions offers a vested interest in customers’ long-term success with metal additive manufacturing. A publicly traded company, SLM Solutions Group AG is headquartered in Germany with offices in France, Italy, the United States, Singapore, Russia, India and China.

As 3D printing makes an impact in nearly every industry today, bikes are no exception, and especially as users are availed of the ability to make their own modifications with frame components, 3D printed airless tires, and even entirely 3D printed bicycle bridges. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source / Images: SLM Solutions]

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