Metal 3D Printers in Des Moines IA | The types of Metal 3D printers
Powder Bed Fusion
When it comes to 3D printing components out of metal, powder bed fusion is currently the most commonly used method. This method works by selectively melting a layer of your print from a thin layer of powder placed over the build tray. Within the powder bed fusion method, there are two styles of metal 3D printing: Selective Laser Melting and Electron Beam Melting. If you want to find out more about Metal 3D Printers in Des Moines IA, reach out to AdvancedTek today!
Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
This method of metal 3D printing, also referred to as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Direct Metal Printing (DMP), or Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) is used by the majority of Powder Bed Fusion systems. These systems utilize high-powered lasers to fuse layers of metal into complete parts. Most manufacturing or engineering companies today who use 3D printing use SLM machines. These systems are known for being precise without compromising complexity. These systems can serve a wide variety of industries, from the automotive to medical, or even for use creating custom manufacturing parts at the drop of a hat. Compared to other types of 3D printing, SLM has a moderate print speed, and will be as precise as the width of the laser beam used in the printer. The major downsides of using SLM methods to print your metal components is price, and post-processing. The price of the powder used in SLM systems is both expensive, and dangerous to handle without proper precautions. In addition, SLM manufacturing often requires post-processing to refine the finished print to a sufficient quality. While most 3D printing processes require some post-processing to refine the surface of the print or remove structural supports creating during the print process, most of these are much easier (relatively) to deal with because they aren’t composed of hardened metal.
Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
Electron Beam Melting, or EBM, is another type of powder bed fusion technique that uses an electron beam in place of a laser to create 3-dimensional metal prints. This process is less precise than SLM printing, but it is generally quicker when producing large parts. The major downsides to this style of printing are the same as SLM, including a hefty cost, and requires the expertise of a dedicated technician to run properly.
Direct Energy Deposition
Direct Energy Deposition is another method of 3D printing that can create metal components, unlike Powder Bed Fusion, this style of printing more closely resembles Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). FDM uses a heated nozzle to heat a filament- typically a resin- until it is malleable, and then moves to stencil in the shape of each individual layer of a whole 3-dimensional print. In Direct Energy Deposition, instead of a heated nozzle, a laser is used to heat the stock (either wire or a powder) until it is malleable, where it is then deposited layer by layer into the desired shape. This method of printing has two varieties: Powder DED, and Wire DED.
Powder DED is what it sounds like: Direct Energy Deposition printing that uses Powder as the stock for the print. Instead of spreading powder around a print bed like Selective Laser Melting, Powder DED precisely place powder out of a print head, using a laser attached to the head of the printer to fuse layers during construction. There is one key difference between SLM and Powder DED prints; while both use powder and lasers to create metal components, DED machines can use their unique powder placing technique to fix printed (or non printed) metal parts that have dents, holes, or other damage.
Wire DED is very similar to Powder DED, but instead of a powder being extruded from the print head, a wire is used instead. It can print even large designs with a quicker speed than most of its competitors, but has worse precision and quality as a result.
Binder Jetting is used to create large scale, highly detailed metal 3D prints, and may overtake SLM as the preferred loose powder method of 3D printing. This style of printing resembles, in some ways, the traditional 2D printing method of jetting ink onto paper. First, this method of metal 3D printing distributes metal powder over the print bed, which is then printed over with a binding polymer, tracing the desired shape of the layer. This loosely adheres to the powder on the print bed, but the final print will not be fully completed until it has been sintered. This final post-processing step will transform the loosely bound print into something fully metallic, and is done by heating the piece in an oven until the binding material burns away and the metal powder seals together into a complete unit. The benefit of this system is that these machines can theoretically be faster than SLM systems because multiple print heads can run simultaneously.
If you’re interested in a company with over 25 years in the business, AdvancedTek can help you achieve anything from Concept Modeling, Functional Prototypes, Manufacturing Tooling, End-User Parts, 3D printers, Post Processing, to Vacuum Forming, and more! We can even help you speed along your prototyping process with our 3D printing service. You can find out more about us by checking out our website here. If you want to find out more about Metal 3D Printers in Des Moines IA, reach out to AdvancedTek today!