3D Printing and Metalworking

Metal 3D printing is disrupting the traditional methods of metalworking and fabrication. Until fairly recently, metalworking has involved timely processes such as casting, CNC machining, and tooling. These processes can take months and can be quite expensive to manufacture parts at scale. Let’s look at some of the ways 3D printing is changing the game.

3D printing began many years ago with plastics and other materials but is now increasing in availability for printing metal parts from materials like stainless steel. Additive manufacturing is an additive process that uses a laser to melt micron layers of metal powder into the plastic filament. Metal 3D printing machines are expanding to utilize a wider variety of metals which can and will simplify some processes for fabrication. This new additive manufacturing can allow fabricators to print parts quickly and to scale. This can replace older fabrication methods of casting and CNC machining. Metal 3D printing is moving beyond the small-scale phase and into mass manufacturing. It is at the beginning of this second phase now.

One of the technologies for metal 3D printing uses a bi-directional printing process, using more than 30,000 jets alongside powder spreaders which jet millions of droplets per second. This will create a high-resolution layer of metal and will build up into parts without the need for tooling. Basically, metalworkers and manufacturers are able to create more metal parts in a matter of minutes as opposed to hours.

Because of these emerging technologies and the vast difference they can and are making to metal manufacturing, the costs of additive manufacturing are coming down. Costs will continue to come down as newer solutions and innovations get developed and once bigger manufacturers begin adopting these technologies. Some of the earliest adopters of these new technologies include some of the world’s top automakers as well as companies in industries from medical devices to clothing manufacturers.

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