Metal 3D printing has risen to fame as a game-changer of manufacturing, showing great promise and created public hype. Recently, metal 3D printing has become more available, scalable, and durable, providing enough tangible utility that most companies are beginning to incorporate the technology into their workflow.
But the technology is still relatively new, and there is much unknown about their complex systems, so let's explore the four leading types of metal 3D printing processes and two world-leading metal 3D printing manufacturers offered at Emona Instruments.
Overall, in this article, you will learn about the technical and logistical advantages of using metal 3D printing – including how they work, their benefits, key considerations and where these technologies are used today.
Metal FFF 3D Printing
Metal FFF, also known as Bound Powder Extrusion, is the most affordable and safe metal 3D printing process currently available.
This method uses metal injection moulding media – metal powder bound together in waxy polymers – as a bound powder feedstock. Bound Powder Extrusion systems use a debinding system and a sintering furnace to completely convert printed parts into metal. Bound Powder Extrusion machines are suitable for a wide range of industrial applications due to their usability and a well-known design for the FFF process.
Metal FFF printers are relatively safe, requiring less PPE and training. With a high-first part yield, metal FFF offers a broader availability of material options than other metal printers. On the downside, Metal FFF carries some design and operation considerations. For example, the FFF process is not well suited to complex lattice structures
Powder Bed Fusion 3D Printing
Powder bed fusion is the most mature and widely used method of metal 3D printing. These systems work via a Laser or Electron Beam-mounted on the gantry, which precisely fuses the metal powder together, building the object powdered layer by powdered layer. After printing, end pieces are depowdered and post-processed as needed.
Powder bed fusion remains the market-leading metal printer since its manufacture over 20+ years ago, and the system can create components that none of the other Emona 3D Printers listed here can. From ultra-complex geometries, large parts, and large fully dense parts, to name a few. Although, powder bed fusion is expensive to acquire, install and operate, and requires a skilled operator to run with expensive PPE.
Powder bed fusion has been adopted by industries known for ultra-specialised, high-performance applications, such as aerospace, automobile, and medical. Slowly as more industries operate these types of machines, the increased competition will help drive more financially accessible machines.
Binder Jetting 3D Printing
Binder jetting is a new type of metal 3D Printer technology with many potentials. This system forms parts in a two-step procedure by adhering loose metal powder together using advanced liquid polymer binders, producing lightly bound parts that can be sintered in batches.
More specifically, an inkjet-style print head deposits a specialised binder on a bed of metal powder during the printing process. After each layer is printed, the system deposits more powder on top, equivalent to powder bed fusion, and repeats the print and spread process until the pieces are completed. Then the delicate parts are carefully depowdered before being sintered, where the binder is burned away, and the components are fused together to form entirely metallic sections.
While binder jetting machines are priced between Metal FFF and Powder Bed Fusion Printers, much is still unknown about the end parts' durability, repeatability, and complexity constraints. Despite the unknown considerations, the binder jetting printing process is extremely fast and can fabricate many parts simultaneously, making these machines a great candidate for metal printing mass production.
Direct Energy Deposition (DED) 3D Printing
Powder or Wire fed DED machines use an Arc, Plasma, electron beam or Lasers to create a meltpool on the surface of a substrate. Powder or Wire feedstock is then fed into the meltpool to build up the part/feature at high deposition rates.DED machines are typically used for Prototyping, cladding, Repair, re-surfacing or feature additions.
The end results are often "Near Net Shape" lower resolution surface finishes that can be machined to a precision finish. As such, DED print engines are increasingly being offered with Machine Tool integration for Hybrid Manufacturing (Additive and subtractive).
Markforged Metal Printers
Emona Instruments is proud to be the leading Australian reseller of Markforged Industrial 3D Printers and 3D Materials. Markforged is one of the few 3D manufacturing companies leading the industry with the innovative technologies of metal 3D printers.
At Emona, we offer the Marforged Metal X, a Metal FFF printer that delivers a user-friendly end-to-end metal 3D printing solution that produces usable metal parts. The Metal X is the most innovative metal 3D printer on the market today. Even with limited training, users will be able to easily print a wide variety of materials, from stainless steels to copper.
The Metal X is made to be accessible and safe for all fabricators. It is 5-10 times less expensive than powder-based metal 3D printing systems, and it does not require a dedicated technician, powder management system, or specialised PPE. Markforged integrates best-in-class tech, materials science, and an integrated motion system to produce industrial-grade components consistently.
Optomec Metal Printers
Emona Instruments is also a proud supplier of Optomec Inc. who offers a full range of Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS) metal additive manufacturing solutions. Which use directed energy deposition (DED) high-powered lasers to build parts layer by layer directly from powdered metals, producing fully dense parts with excellent mechanical and durable properties.
LENS systems result in a high-speed, high-quality and affordable metal 3D printing process making complex metal parts easier, more precise, efficient and affordable to produce and repair. Direct Energy Deposition (DED) can be 10x faster and 5x less expensive than Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) for certain metal parts.
Optomec LENS systems are laser safe, atmosphere-controlled, robust multi-axis systems with additive or hybrid capabilities. Using "art to part", Optomec metal printers offer a user-friendly interface, advanced tool path generation from CAD files, the ability to process non-reactive and reactive metals, familiar machinist G&M codes, advanced closed-loop software for process control.
Source 3D Printers and 3D Printing Materials at Emona
Hence metal 3D Printing is one to keep an eye on; their technology can decrease costs and improve efficiency at all stage of the production process. Be an early adopter of commercial 3D Printing with a state-of-the-art Industrial 3D Printer and high-quality 3D printing materials from Emona Instruments.
The potential of 3D Printing is still in its infancy; in the coming years, almost all industries and companies will use the technology to enhance their manufacturing and supply chains. Emona Instruments caters for a range of budgets, functions and technologies, suitable for R&D professionals, production lines or the classroom.