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Design: What Sets Apart Metal 3D Printing Part One

Applications and Companies

Traditional metal part fabrication has many constraints. Fortunately, there is 3D metal printing design to optimize a part’s functionality and reduce material, time, and cost. As metal 3D printing can create parts within parts, engineers can design a complex assembly in one piece. There are many metals and high-performance alloys available for 3D printing with some exclusive to 3D printing. From a wide range of stainless steels for hardness and strength to titaniums that are biocompatible and lightweight, the list includes cobalt cromes, alumiums, nickel-based alloys, gold, silver, platinum, copper, and more. Let us look at the top applications for metal 3D printing and which companies are 3D printing with metal.

Low-Volume & Specialty Part

Low-volume and specialty part is the largest and broadest category of applications for metal 3D printing, everything from high-end bicycle frames to specialty robotic parts. Companies choose 3D printing where advanced engineering software provides a better, more efficient part design that can only be produced by 3D printing. Also, 3D printing is a faster and more efficient solution when a specialty metal part requires additional metal tools to create the part along with additional processes, like welding or assembly. Companies that turned to metal 3D printing for low-volume and specialty parts: NASA, Grohe, bathroom fixture company, Ulterra, an oil and gas industry parts manufacturer, Boeing, Porsche, Nik Huber Guitars, and tool maker Eisenhuth.

Functional Metal Prototypes

Examples are golf clubs to door hinges, printing a metal prototype that functions exactly like the final machined metal part. It is another top application of metal 3D printing.
They are strong metal prototypes 3D printed in their final metal material that goes beyond look and feel. The product can be tested for usability, ergonomics, and manufacturability. Metal 3D printing requires no tooling, little machine setup, and production is faster so engineers can explore more designs in a shorter period of time. mCompanies that turned to metal 3D printing for prototypes: Lumenium, a Virginia-based company developing innovative internal combustion engines, and global kitchen and bath fittings manufacturer, ExOne.


3D Printing and High-Speed Train Parts

A Solution for Safety-Critical Parts

Deutsche Bahn AG or DB is a German railway company, jointly owned by the Federal Republic. It is the second-largest transport company in the world and is the largest railway operator and infrastructure owner in Europe. Their European system of high-speed trains is renowned for their comfort and reliability. With its annual carriage of about 2 billion passengers, from time to time the system requires repair.

Take for example, last year two rail carriages needed repair, requiring a new secondary roll stop, a heavy steel component bolted to the underside of each passenger car that limits lateral play on tight curves to ensure safe cornering. It’s a critical part for safety, though the engineers are hesitant to change it. The difficulty is that it is not a regular service item but an accident repair component that is not in stock normally. Needed urgently though, the usual suppliers said that the minimum order was for four castings, will take ten months to deliver, and still have them machined traditionally. On top of these, huge money is required for initial tooling. This just wouldn’t work. So they turned, instead, to 3D printing.

DB’s Head of Additive Manufacturing decided to 3D-print the components using the WAAM process, teaming up with Gefertec, which manufactured the parts at its headquarters near Berlin. The lead-time was reduced by five months and the overall cost was 30% lower. Gerfertec’s unique technology is that many kilograms of metal can be deposited in a relatively short time. DB’s secondary roll stops are perfect for the rapid production of high-value metal parts in small quantities at a reduced cost.

Before DB could realize the completed part there was a lot of investigation, development and design of processes with them at the outset, as this is a safety-critical component. Once the WAAM route was taken, the original 10-month lead-time for castings was down to half. In reality, during reconstruction the process can be condensed into a matter of days, and that despite having to work with Covid-19 restrictions.
This only goes to show that when it comes to a manufacturing process that involves a lengthy lead-time of hard-to-machine material – whether cast, forged or billet – an economical solution, such as Gerfertec’s, may be a viable commercial alternative to subtractive machining.


3D Printed Production Parts: Meeting Aerospace Demands

Upgrading in the Time of Pandemic

Stratasys, Ltd, a global leader in manufacturing of 3D printers and 3D production systems for office-based rapid prototyping and direct digital manufacturing solutions, has announced winning one of its largest single orders to date.

Latvia-based AM Craft, the specialist aerospace additive manufacturing service provider, has purchased four large-scale production-grade Stratasys F900 3D Printers to provide certifiable 3D printed parts for a much wider range of aircraft interior applications. This includes everything from aircraft seating, panelling and ducting. This development has enabled Stratasys to make it more affordable for AM Craft to introduce customization within their plane cabins.

AM Craft has been aware of the growing demand for 3D printed production parts among major aircraft Original Equipment Manufacturers or OEMs. The pandemic has shaken the aerospace industry in the last months, but efforts are ongoing to return to business. OEMs are using this time to remodel passenger planes for cargo shipments, to increase customer safety measures and improve the inflight customer experience. They are thinking, for example, of providing mobile device charging stations and Wi-Fi infrastructures.

AM Craft has noted Stratasys’ capabilities in highly-repeatable FDM-based 3D printing technology in conjunction with aerospace-grade materials like ULTEM™ 9085 resin. To AM Craft’s advantage, they will be able to meet the strict rules and regulations of certification requiring the highest level of repeatability and traceability with every manufactured part.

This new and latest investment of AM Craft will complement their existing line-up of four Stratasys Fortus F450mc 3D Printers. Together, the eight FDM-based machines will be the core of their new facility in Riga, the capital of Latvia, dedicated to additive manufacturing. The site will focus specifically on fulfilling the application requirements of the company’s customer base of aircraft suppliers and airlines. This will make the company one of the largest independent aerospace-focused 3D printing service providers in the European, Middle Eastern and African region.


3D Printed Programmable Filaments and Applications

Not Just About Colors

We have been used to single-color fused filament fabrication (FFF) and are excitedly inclined to explore the potential of multi-colored, multi-material printing, typically reserved for higher end binder jet and inkjet technologies. Generally, multi-color printing allows more opportunities, particularly if with add-on hardware. Programmable Filament, a novel technique that enables multi-material printing using a commodity FDM 3D printer, requires no hardware upgrades.

Researchers from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Texas A&M University (working also with researchers from Japan) have developed an interactive system for 3D printing with multiple colors and multiple materials using a single printhead – and without any hardware updates necessary.

Working with existing, inexpensive 3D printers, Programmable Filament splices multiple filament segments into a single thread. At the start, the process prints a new strand of filament made up of different existing filament strands. The filaments are of different colors and used different materials, and are built upon computational analysis and experiments. After splicing, one long spiral is produced.

The new rainbow filament can be used just like standard 3D printing filaments. As it is programmable, it can be adjusted as to thickness, roundness, and more, including how much material is needed and how long the length. Programmable Filament is meant to streamline previous challenges found in dual printing, cutting down on shifting and mixing of colors and materials between segments. Most helpful of all, as the filament has already been pre-processed, all the printer has to do is to fabricate the multifaceted filament.

One application for the programmable filament is customized filament manufacturing on-demand. Specifically in medical and the healthcare fields, in electronics and other industrial productions, programmable filaments may be needed as smart electron emission controllers for hot filament when and where needed.


Accessibility and Affordability

Like what 3D printing companies say – what makes 3D printing so exciting and watchable? That’s because there’s always advances in new hardware, software, and materials to catch on.


What 3D Printing Is All About: A Beginner’s Guide

3D Printing Industry

3D printing is also known as “additive manufacturing” because every finished 3D printed product (if opened up sliced) is found to have thin layers of the printing material layed one of top of the other. They were added as such from the bottom-up by the extrusion nozzle of a 3D printer. The object is created from a digital file from a 3D model of it. The computer model is sliced into hundreds or thousands of layers and fed to the 3D printer.

What is the benefit of this system?

Traditional manufacturing is the old or usual way of manufacturing products, using, in contrast, subtractive manufacturing – removing parts of a block of material in order to create the desired shape. For example cutting wood or other materials. Additive manufacturing sees to it that even complex shapes can be created much more easily, uses less materials, and reduces time and wastage significantly. Parts and products can be printed on-site, hence, limiting transport needs. One-off items can be printed quickly and easily eliminating the burden of economies of scale. Products can be customized and redesigned as often as needed. 3D printing uses a variety of printing materials that are readily available – such as plastic, metal, powder, concrete, liquid, and others.

3D printing has been used in many applications and has impacted many industries, notably, the automotive industry, medical and healthcare, aerospace and construction. Others are manufacturing, architecture, design, education, entertainment and fashion.

Some of the most common examples that have been 3D printed came from a wide range of applications and many manufacturing settings. These products are airplane and spacecraft parts, car parts and accessories, running sneaker soles, mannequins and apparel, jewelries, body part prosthesis, robotics, furniture, small houses and buildings, as well as boats and bridges.

On the other hand, here are some examples or amazing, unusual and thought-provoking products: bones and muscles, including ovaries, bionic eyes, blood vessel networks, skin grafts, among others. Likewise, there’s food stuff like pizza, pastries and chocolates. Others are artificial coral reefs, replicas of archeological finds, sculptures, and more. Some homes have their own personal 3D printer that can pretty much churn up common, everyday items.