Metal FFF 3D-printed Helical Gears
A report published last year by SmarTech Analysis predicted that the market for Bound Metal Additive Manufacturing is expected to expand rapidly and that up to $54bn of parts manufactured this way could be delivered by 2030. This maybe reflects a view that you use polymer additive manufacturing (AM) to save money, but metal additive manufacturing is where you make money!
Also, in an age of difficult supply chains, it may be that it’s becoming more difficult, or more expensive, to source or produce metal parts via traditional manufacturing methods.
So, how do you get on board and take advantage of this metal AM opportunity, especially if you’re new to the world of 3D printing and additive manufacturing?
There are two major sub-categories of bound metal AM, the first is metal binder jetting and the second is metal fused filament fabrication (metal FFF). The latter is definitely the option to take when it comes to ease of adoption, low investment and quickly gaining an appreciation of what’s possible with this branch of AM.
Producing parts using metal FFF is now very easy and can be implemented on many desktop 3D printers, which typically means the maximum initial investment is much less than $10,000. In fact, many might already have a machine capable of this technology in use for polymer parts and, if so, only a minimal additional investment is usually required to upgrade the machine to make it capable of metal FFF.
The 3D printing element is only part of the story though. After printing the parts they need to be post-processed using well-proven techniques to produce the final full-metal part. This involves de-binding the metal powder from its binding material and then sintering it at very high temperatures to fuse the powder into a full metal part. The easiest route initially is to have this post-processing work carried out by a separate company who have all of the necessary equipment.
The learning curve for metal FFF, therefore, involves two aspects, understanding what is a feasible part to 3D print, together with an understanding of how that part will behave through the post-processing stages. Both elements can have a significant influence on the design, so parts for metal FFF definitely benefit from Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) thinking.
Once those aspects are understood then there are design advantages to be had with metal FFF which can include :
Topology-optimized designs and complex structures
Lightweighting by implementing internal lattice structures to parts
Internal design features that are impossible with conventional manufacturing
High surface area structures for applications such as heat exchangers
Engaging initially with Metal FFF definitely promotes a better understanding of the benefits of bound metal AM and may lead to a natural progression into the binder jetting option. That method is capable of higher throughput and supports production-level volumes of parts, which will play a very significant part in delivering that $54bn prediction for this branch of the metal AM market.
If you want to learn how metal FFF could benefit you then contact 3dpmaven and be put in touch with an expert who can help you with the adoption.
This article was prepared by Stephen C, an expert with 3dpmaven for 3D Printing Technology Adoption.