Last Updated on November 15, 2023 by assistant
In recent years, metal 3D printing has become a buzzword in the manufacturing industry. Like CNC machining, current 3d printing metal technology can also achieve unprecedented precision and create complex and exquisite metal parts. In this blog post, we’ll explore what metal 3D printing is, how it works, and delve into the basics of two common 3d printing metal processes: Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS).
What is Metal 3D Printing?
metal 3d printing, as the name suggests, is a technology that uses additive manufacturing principles to create three-dimensional objects using metal materials. This additive manufacturing technology is also known as metal additive manufacturing (AM) because of its ability to produce functional metal parts directly from digital designs. It involves building a part layer by layer, where each layer fuses to form a solid body. Like traditional subtractive manufacturing methods such as milling or casting, this process allows for greater design freedom.
How Does Metal 3D Printing Work?
Similar to the approach to regular 3D printing of prototypes, 3d metal printing relies on a layer-by-layer approach, where digital models are sliced into thin cross-sectional layers. These layers are then manufactured sequentially using a variety of metal powder-based processes. The two main metal 3d print technologies are selective laser melting (SLM) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). Below are details of the production process for both technologies.
Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
SLM is a popular 3d print metal technology that uses high-power lasers to melt and fuse metal powders selectively. The process begins with a thin layer of metal powder, usually spread on a build platform. The laser scans the surface, melting the powder particles according to digital design specifications. Once one layer is complete, a new layer of powder is applied and the process is repeated until the entire part is manufactured.
SLM offers excellent geometric freedom, allowing the production of complex internal structures, undercuts, and complex designs. It works on a variety of metals, including stainless steel, titanium, aluminum, and nickel-based alloys. on the other hand, the final parts produced by SLM have high strength, high density, and high precision.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
DMLS is another 3d print metal technology that utilizes high-power lasers to sinter or partially melt metal powders. Unlike SLM, DMLS operates at lower laser powers, which causes the metal particles to fuse without reaching a fully molten state. This process is beneficial when working with metals with high melting points.
In DMLS, a laser selectively sinters metal powder particles, bonding them together to form the desired part. Similar to SLM, successive layers build upon each other until the final part is complete. DMLS is commonly used to produce functional prototypes, small-scale production runs, and complex metal parts with intricate details.
Advantages and Limitations of Metal 3D Printing
Metal 3D printing has numerous advantages that drive its application in various industries. Here are the advantages of this technology:
Design freedom: 3d printed metal can create highly complex geometries and complex internal structures that would be difficult or impossible to achieve using traditional manufacturing methods.
Rapid prototyping and customization: The ability to quickly iterate on designs and produce custom parts on demand reduces time to market and provides customized solutions for specific applications.
Increased efficiency: Metal 3D printing uses only the amount of metal powder required for each part, reducing material waste, and resulting in cost savings and environmental benefits.
Material Diversity: Metal 3D printing can use a variety of metals and alloys, providing flexibility in material selection to meet specific performance requirements.
However, metal 3d print also has certain limitations.
Cost: Metal 3D printing is expensive, especially for mass production, due to the high cost of metal powders and the complexity of the equipment required.
Post-processing: Parts produced through 3d printed metal often require post-processing steps such as heat treatment, machining, or surface finishing to obtain the desired properties or surface quality.
Size limitations: The build volume of metal 3D printers limits the size of parts that can be produced in a single print job, which may not be suitable for large-scale applications.
Metal 3D printing is a transformative technology that enables the production of complex metal parts with unprecedented design freedom and precision. Through processes such as SLM and DMLS, 3d metal print has found applications in various industries including aerospace, automotive, medical, and more. While it has significant advantages, it can be limited by high costs and some limitations. Fortunately, it can be replaced with many options.
At Ruitai, we offer a variety of manufacturing solutions for your design projects. Our superior production capabilities and quality set us apart from many component manufacturers. Almost all the customers we have worked with have spoken highly of us. Therefore, if you have related manufacturing projects, please feel free to contact us, We provide you with a free quotation service.