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3D Metal Printing Process Stages

Metal 3D printing: Learn four metal 3D printing methods and their processing stages

There is no doubt that metal 3D printing services have paved the way for innovative manufacturing processes, presenting the business owners with the scope for a reduced tooling expenditure and the freedom to design intricate parts at an affordable cost. With automation also an icing on the cake, the metal part production industry in India is rampantly adopting metal 3D printing service as a prominent process for their production. This article from the expert plastic mould manufaturer in India highlights the top four metal 3D printing methods for the readers widely used in the production industry across India.

Top four 3D printing services in India

Metal X metal 3D printing service

This method of metal 3D printing is a fast picking up trend for its rapid prototyping capabilities. The method is divided into three stages,printing, washing, and sintering. Here is a brief insight into each of these stages.

Printing: The initial stage involves designing the parts using CAD application and exporting it to a cloud-based slicing and print management system. The system configures the part based on the printer and materials being used in the 3D printing. The application also slices your design into layers and builds supports & rafts underneath your metal parts.

The printer nozzle maps and levels the print surface to ensure the layers are printed properly. The 3D metal print is built from metal and ceramic materials that are stored in the heated chamber and extruded from the printer nozzle to the build plate as guided by the printer. The part and the support developed is then passed on to the second stage, washing.

Washing: At this stage, the part, also known as the green part, is placed on a wash basket and lowered into a solvent. The phase may take up from a few hours to few days depending upon the part's thickness. Once the washing is over, the part, at this stage known as the brown part, is then moved to the sintering stage.

Sintering: During sintering, the brown part is fully developed into a metal part. The initial temperature in the sintering stage is maintained low to burn away binding materials remnants. The heat is slowly ramped up to the melting point to allow the metals to fuse and create a strong metal part. The part is then transferred to furnaces to make sure that alloy composition and quality standards are met. Each furnace run might take a day and is monitored by a software application. Finally, the raft is separated from the part to obtain the final part that is subjected to polishing or machining for final use.

Also Read: 3D Printing Process and Technology
View of the 3D metal printed component from 3D printing machine

Metal-binding jetting 3D printing service

In this method, the initial process involves the designing phase and the slicer software guiding the printer head to deposit the materials. Here are the steps involved in the printing

  1. The printer head extrude metal powder and adhesives in layers. The alternate layers of binders and powder are fused that builds upwards to form the part. A few printers include overhead heaters, which allow the binders to melt & fuse and the layers to dry up fast. This may take a few hours.
  2. Once the printing is finished, the powder is dusted off, and the fragile & porous metal part is kept inside the oven for about 24 hours at 350 F. The heat hardens the metal and facilitates a greater binding.
  3. After the metals are hardened, fillers like bronze fillers are added to strengthen the metal 3D printing. Strengthened metal is perfect to be used as a functional part

Powder bed fusion metal 3D printing service

This method is very similar to the binding jetting method that uses high-temperature laser beams instead of metal binders to fuse the metal powders. Print head beams out hot laser beams to the sections where the layers are constructed, fuses the metal powders in the area, and solidifies them. The process is repeated until the final product is developed. Powder bed fusion is done using the following techniques EBM (Electron beam melting) , SLS (Selective laser sintering), SLM (Selective Laser Melting), or DMLS (direct metal laser sintering)

Direct energy deposition metal 3D printing

This technique uses either a metal powder or metal wire that is extruded from the printer head nozzles. An electron or laser beam melts the deposited layers of metal powder or metal wires. The process is repeated until the metal part is constructed layer over layer. This method is quite popular for maintaining and repairing metal materials.