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.