Read 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.
Spare & Obsolete Parts
Metal 3D printing is extending the lifespan of discontinued equipment and expanding repair possibilities for many obsolete machines. 3D printing technology can not only produce a spare part when no part exists, but even improve upon the part, often reducing weight and the amount of material used. Companies that turned to metal 3D printing for spare parts: Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Deutsche Bahn, and the U.S. Marine Corp.
Surgical & Dental Implants
The medical device category of metal 3D printing applications is huge in scope and in volume. Metal 3D printing in healthcare is number one. In dental labs, 3D printing final metal stainless steel implants as tooth replacements is growing. The number of 3D printed metal parts that can be implanted into the human body is also huge. From bone replacements to cranial implants to vascular stents, the essential benefits of 3D printed body parts are customization and unique form.
Surgeons are helping drive a movement toward made-to-order implants customized for a patient’s unique needs. Companies that turned to metal 3D printing for implants: Swift Dental Group in the UK, Stryker, one of the world’s leading medical technology companies, Toughware Prosthetics, Colorado, USA, Graft3D Healthcare Solutions in Chennai, India, AK Medical orthopedic implants, China.
Jewelry & Decorative Arts
Jewelers turn to 3D printing with plastics for investment casting patterns, cheaper and faster to produce than traditional methods. 3D printing with precious metals is less popular. Competition is growing among online print-to-order service bureaus, and prices are going down. Artists and jewelers use the technology to print final pieces out of precious metals. Complex and delicate geometric designs, not possible through traditional methods, enable jewelers to offer unique and bespoke creations. Companies that turned to metal 3D printing for jewelry: Arlid Links, a cutting-edge boutique jewelry company, and Brazilian jewelry designer, Veronica Nunes with 3D printing service bureau Star Rapid.