Metal 3D printing
Born for prototype purposes with the advent of the 21st century, metal 3D printing has increasingly consolidated itself as a real production technology suitable for creating parts ready for final use. Today it is very common to come across the term “additive manufacturing” to indicate that industrial 3D printing technologies are now recognised as mature and suitable for working alongside - sometimes in place of - traditional technologies, especially in the most critical sectors such as aerospace, automotive and medical industries.
Traditional production technologies are well established in the manufacturing world and allow large productions in terms of quantity; however, they set some limits, linked above all to design, which additive manufacturing is able to overcome not only in the prototype field, but also as regards pre-series and small batches, with practically unlimited possibilities. Additive manufacturing thus defines a new production paradigm and a new way of conceiving the design of industrial components.
The main metal 3D printing technologies
On the market there are mainly 4 technologies suitable for the additive manufacturing of metals: MBJ (Metal Binder Jetting) , DED (Direct Energy Deposition), DMLS / SLM (Direct Metal Laser Sintering / Selective Laser Melting) and EBM (Electronic Beam Melting).
With MBJ (Metal Binder Jetting), the metal powder is bound with a glue (binder) and then undergoes a debinding treatment and sintering in a specific oven. The technology promises good productivity, but the items produced do not perform well in terms of density and mechanical properties, making the technology unsuitable for large and critical components.
With EBM (Electron Beam Melting) we begin to introduce processes very similar to laser welding. EBM promises good results on complex components and good productivity, but lacks in surface quality.
DED (Direct Energy Deposition) is characterised by a very high speed and the possibility of working even on considerable dimensions. All this performance pays a price in terms of reproducible complexity and above all in a poor surface quality.
DMLS shares with EBM the need for a strong initial investment but is considered the most appropriate technology when high surface detail is required, when working on very complex elements and especially when high densities and certified mechanical properties are required.
Critical sectors and Zare’s technological choice
Zare acquired the first DMLS/SLM production system in 2014 as a result of the analysis carried out by crossing the technological characteristics with the needs of clients operating in the sectors in which it had the goal of placing itself.
The advantages of using additive manufacturing are most evident when the project must be LIGHT, COMPLEX and CUSTOMISED at the same time. The sectors in which these aspects are most relevant are AEROSPACE, MOTORSPORT and BIOMEDICAL.
The companies operating in these sectors are historically accustomed to the use of specific materials with known behaviour and to impeccable quality, both superficial and in terms of care and detail of the product.
These were the reasons that led ZARE to choose the DMLS/SLM technology from the very beginning. Following this, ZARE continued its investments in this coherent direction to build one of the most important DMLS machinary park in Europe and one of the very few to include a Concept Laser X-Line 2000R®, the machine with the largest build volume available today.
The materials for metal 3d printing and the reference sectors
Clients operating in critical sectors have reference values, consolidated over time, for what concerns the materials used in the projects.
Metal additive manufacturing still has many experimental aspects, especially as regards the development of parameters and production methods that can guarantee the result the designer is used to.
The laser sintering technology of metals allows a high complexity of the objects produced and guarantees high mechanical properties.
These characteristics have prompted the producers of powders to atomise a wide range of materials such as aluminium and titanium, with different alloys and types, perfect for producing resistant and light components, or materials that guarantee resistance to corrosion, given by chemical or environmental agents, such as steels or nichel alloys.
The following are some of the materials used daily by Zare in the production plants and the related sectors for which there is a consistent use.
Only a repeatable process can guarantee an industrial result
Repeatability is a fundamental requirement for both efficient and effective production.
For this reason, the DMLS/SLM technology proves to be an appropriate choice for the industrial sector. However, it is equally fundamental to manage the interaction between technology, material and process: once the specific intended use of the object to be produced is assessed, it is necessary to find the best combination of technology and material by taking care of the entire process from the selection of the metal powder, to the manufacturing, up to the control and finishing phases.
To take full advantage of the possibilities offered by additive manufacturing of metals, and to find the most suitable approach to the individual project, the Zare Additive Team makes available the experience and the expertise it has consolidated using additive technologies and high-performance materials for production of critical elements: a know-how that allows you to get the most out of additive technology in production.