How is Metal 3D Printing Technology Shaping the Industry?

Metal 3D printing engulfs a wide range of technologies, each with its benefits and applications, along with a level of maturity.

Fremont, CA: It is very critical to understand the capabilities and limitations that are currently laying while opting to adopt a particular metal 3D printing technology for production. Yet when it comes to metal 3D printing, companies face the challenge of separating reality with the hype. To help the companies easily assess the maturity of the vital metal 3D printing technologies, their readiness for end-to-end production based on a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) system developed by NASA is determined. TRL is an approach to determine if an emerging technology is suitable for space exploration. This technology is leveraged to identify the maturity of different 3D printing technologies. To understand the TRL for each metal 3D printing technology, the evolution, industries adopting it, its use, and the developments shaping the future are analyzed.

Selective Laser Melting

It is one of the most established metal 3D printing technologies, Selective Laser Melting (SLM) selectively applies a powerful fine-tuned laser to a layer of metal powder; as a result, the metal particles are fused together layer by layer creating a part. Over the last decade, manufacturers of SLM 3D printer are focused on optimizing the technology for production. The solutions are modular, configurable, and offer a high level of automation with maximum efficiency and reduce the amount of manual labor required.

Electron Beam Melting

Similar to SLM, Electron Beam Melting (EBM) belongs to the powder bed fusion family of 3D printing technologies. The differentiating factor between EBM and SLM is that instead of a laser EBM system uses a high-powered electron beam to heat the source to melt layers of metal powder. The layering process of EBM is upgraded to reduce high temperatures; this enables the manufacturers to cut down up to five hours on a full-height build and also to increase printing speeds up to 50 percent.

Direct Energy Deposition

The Direct Energy Deposition (DED) originates from welding processes, involves melting metal with the help of a laser or an electric beam as the material is pushed from a nozzle onto a building platform. The DED system either uses wire or powder as the feedstock. One of the most successful applications of DED is repairing the damaged components. DED is used to add material to the damaged parts, such as turbine blades and injection mold inserts. By repairing DED helps in reducing downtime and cost associated with replacing a part.