large format 3d printing for metal parts

3d printing of metal has enabled pathways of innovation that will help all of us

The wonderful thing about innovations that are brought to the public´s attention is that when it makes sense it can make sense for a whole bunch of companies within a global community that in turn have the predisposition to invest in it and see it through to its fullest potential. Sense can mean a number of things, but the bottom line is that 3D metal printing performs better and saves money, particularly when dealing with big jobs that in the past have traditionally necessitated all kinds of machinery in huge facilities. These necessitated many steps and the manpower of tried and true professionals that can guarantee a dependable product through finessed experience. It´s always been a tall order and perhaps it´s time to shake things up a bit.


Thanks to 3D ingenuity, the tide looks to be changing and soon companies are going to make sweeping changes on an array of industrial fronts as they begin to really lean into the advanced and well calculated possibilities that large scale 3D printing offers the production landscape that it´s shaping at a steady rate each year. As far as large scale printing is concerned, metal printers are now poised to offer various titans of industry superior metal parts and components. Standards are being taken to a higher place than ever before thanks to a capacity to really call the shots in both the design and execution phases of construction.


There are many companies that have been stepping up to apply their vision to large format 3D printing and are welcoming a new way of constructing the complex goals that engineering constantly strives for. One great example is the aviation giant Boeing which has announced that they will begin to use parts made from titanium alloys. In order to take full advantage of these alloys the company has employed the help of Norwegian company Norsk Titanium to print in economical and geometrically sound ways that will as a result cut down on the ultimate cost of individual planes like the 787 aircraft by millions of dollars each.


Another example is the Swedish 3D printer manufacturer that goes by the name of Arcam AB is receiving a huge amount of demand for their industrial printing units that use electron beams to melt and additively manufacture metal components for all types of important industries. An area in which this technology is finding an especially fruitful relationship is in the enormous medical sector. Particularly significant is the business of constructing orthopedics that are especially made for individuals so that they may live the healthiest and most comfortable lives possible. The most common among these types of devices are replacement hips, shoulders and most numerous of all, dental metal pieces which due to the overabundance of poor oral hygiene comprise a huge chunk of the market.


However, the most intriguing aspects of printing units like those of Arcam AB is the sheer volume, in terms of manufacturable units, that they can produce on a single work day. They’re unbelievable speedy for machines that make custom metal parts. And we’re not just talking about steel, Arcam AB for instance is a huge supplier of titanium and cobalt that large format 3D printers are able to process.


There are other fields that are pushing metal printing to its limits. Case in point is billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or as it is more commonly known, Space X, has been able to use direct metal laser sintering coupled with regenerative cooling to manufacture additively engine chambers. The really cool part that the material used is actually a very tough superalloy that goes by Inconel. Technology that can print in this superalloy is very important as these chambers need to hold their own under the extreme conditions that thruster engines generate.


It’s hard to imagine exactly how much is going on when a whole set of 8 engines 120,000 pounds of axel thrust are doing their job, but one thing is for sure, you can’t have any measurement be even a little off. Or else what may happen is that the chamber won’t be able to hold its own or the direction of the propulsion will be a little bit skewed, thereby sending the rocket in the wrong direction which could be catastrophic when you’re trying to enter an orbit.


Accuracy is a big reason why aviation is taking to 3D printing of large parts, but a big reason why big companies like GE Aviation are buying in is because although large format 3D printing, like the direct metal laser melting they need, is expensive when you add up the cost of the units it makes up for such costs in the long run. This is because with such an extreme degree of accuracy one can design complex geometries through computer aided design and send said design directly to a printer that can manufacture the lighter model without sacrificing ultimate integrity. As a matter of fact, although their new fuel nozzles are a fourth part lighter they are actually five times stronger despite having the same general density.


Companies like Tract us 3D are trying to corner the industrial market by offering a selection of large format 3D printers that can work within a variety of capacities. They have models that are great at working with large components and others that can dole out a great many smaller ones a terrific speeds. This is good news for small businesses as they claim that their machines are easier to use than many others. On top of this they boast printers that are low in weight and are ideal to move around, from lets say from one manufacturing warehouse or office to the next.


And the market for what are called final-run parts is growing at such an encouraging rate that analysts don’t see this kind of growth easing up in the slightest anytime soon in the foreseeable future. It promotes a higher, more effective level of design that consequently brings down the cost of production, for instance, by greatly diminishing the number of certified professionals required. Factories are sure to decrease in size as a result and we may start to see an actual evolution in the metal component production industry.


Working smarter and not harder should be the tagline for the latest waves of metal 3D printers as they are freeing up designers to really go to town on what they come up with. The less limitations that are applied to them the more freely and more innovative the ways are that they can approach the work that they do. Before computers, since everything was made through simpler methods such as the manned machining and forging that characterized and made possible so many of the wonders that were ushered in by the industrial revolution, much of engineering lacked a certain capacity for precision.


All kinds of elegant and elaborate routes weren’t even considered and left by the wayside as they were deemed to hard to produce. But now, industrial printing can handle all kinds of engineering curve balls that in the past they could only dream of, and oftentimes at a pretty baffling rate that helps to keep businesses completive and generally superior than they have been in the past. It´s a new battleground and many companies are finding too irresistible to not test the waters.

Keep reading: more articles about 3D scanning

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