Metal 3d printing is a manufacturing process that uses layers of powder to build up and form complex structures that may be difficult to create with other processes. It is used for both rapid prototyping and finished production parts for aerospace, mechanical engineering, tooling and more.
There are many techniques for powder-based 3D printing, but a few stand out as particularly powerful: Powder bed fusion (PLF) and cold spray deposition, which both use nozzles to shoot metal powder at a target plate that moves in front of the powder stream. The nozzles shoot tens of micrometers wide metal particles onto the surface, fusing them together as they strike it.
PBF is the most commonly used technique for printing metal parts and works with a broad range of industrially significant powder metal types such as stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, copper, cobalt and nickel alloys. Energy requirements and appropriate techniques vary between these metals, but the processes are largely consistent.
Several companies have developed metal 3d printing technologies for applications that require large, hollow parts and/or high-performance components. For example, Spee3D and Meld have developed technologies that can produce custom-shaped parts using a nozzle to shoot metal powder at a moving plate.
They can print tens of kilograms per hour of stainless steel and aluminum at lower temperatures than fusion systems, which reduces the machine's energy footprint. The systems also produce parts without any inert gas, which can improve the strength of the parts.