Metal additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, has been in the manufacturing spotlight for some time. Its ability to offer unrivaled design freedom with a wide range of materials has made it a pivotal technology for design prototypes. More recently, metal AM has become more common for finished components that are geometrically intricate and difficult to build using other manufacturing methods.

Metal additive manufacturing methods

As a cutting-edge technology, new methods in metal AM are constantly being explored. Currently, common processing methods include:

  • Powder bed fusion
  • Binder jetting
  • Direct energy deposition

Powder bed fusion uses a heat source to consolidate metal powder to form 3D components. The heat source is applied to powder on a powder bed. The powder bed is gradually lowered and a new layer of powder spread over the build area for the next layer of heat to be applied.

Binder jetting uses inkjet technology and a binding agent to layer metal powder together. Once the binder jetting process is complete, the component will need to undergo sintering to achieve final density.

Direct energy deposition uses metal powder or wire with an energy source to deposit melted material directly onto a build tray or an existing part. This method is generally used for large components without the need for tight tolerances or to repair and maintain existing components.

Other types of metal AM technology include material extrusion and material jetting.

Selective density

One of the features of metal AM is the ability to have varying densities within a component. A component can have a high-density section and a low-density section or vice versa all within the same build.

Applications of metal AM

Some of the applications for metal AM are product development, prototypes, and models; pilot production low-volume components; low-volume component production when tooling production costs are too high using other methods; and components with highly complex geometry that are not feasible and possibly impossible using other methods.

Industries currently using metal AM

Of late, aerospace and defense, medical, and even automotive components have been grabbing headlines with components used in passenger jets, custom medical devices like craniomaxillofacial implants and auto companies looking to increase productivity while reducing machining waste.

If your company is interested in speaking with a metal AM component fabricator visit the Find a Fabricator directory on PickPM.com

To learn more about metal AM, visit the Additive Manufacturing with Powder Metallurgy (AMPM2020) conference website at AMPM2020.org. This year's AMPM conference is co-located with the World Congress on Powder Metallurgy and Particulate Materials (WorldPM2020) and the International Conference on Tungsten, Refractory and Hardmaterials conference.