The established names (read: Hewlett Packard and General Electric, to name but a few) have now fully embraced this technology. In the first instance 3D printing was employed for the production of prototypes. Subsequently the first models of a product for field tests were 3D printed. And now we have…
Three times three D
Many people have a rather stereotypical image of 3D printing and see a printer produce a piece of complicated plastic. But there is now much more possible, such as stereo lithography, binder jetting, laser melting, fused deposition modeling or laser cladding. All these techniques have their own possibilities and their own limitations and only by fully understanding the technique, you can determine whether the technique is suitable for prototyping or even for the actual production (the latter is also more and more common in recent years, because the 3D printing technique has become more mature and now well suited for a production process with functional applications). Here we discuss three examples of additive manufacturing / 3D printing; know that there are more and ask us especially about it.
In stereo lithography, the almost oldest method for rapid manufacturing, an object is layered from a liquid. A UV laser controlled by a prism illuminates the liquid. Because this laser has exactly the right wavelength to allow the liquid to harden, an object is created. The table slowly sinks into the liquid and thus the object is built up layer by layer. This technique can be applied for plastics, but also for ceramics and is applied a lot for prototyping and tooling, but also for the manufacture of injection molds for smaller series. The limitation of this technique, with which larger parts can also be manufactured very accurately, is in the limited material options and the fact that free-hanging structures have to be supported.
Selective laser melting is a fairly new additive production process, with which we can make normal density from 3D CAD objects. This is a similar technique with the previous one (stereo lithography) with the difference that here there is a powder bed where a layer of metal powder is illuminated by a laser so that the powder fuses together. You can make complex products from special metals in small series. Think of stainless steel, titanium, silver, nickel alloys, gold, copper, cobalt alloys or aluminum. This technique provides very good mechanical properties, but the process is slow. As a result, this technique is mainly used in very small series and prototype.
With binder jetting no metal comes out of the print head of the printer, but a liquid binder. A (metal) powder is then scattered over it. That is a lightning-fast process that can be applied to all materials that you can get in powder form. Think of plastic, metal, ceramics or glass. Because the end product is not as strong as the powder, but as the binder the mechanical properties of these products are less good. In this way, in practice, a mold will be produced rather than an end product.
Menzing knows this and all other additive manufacturing techniques. Including their advantages and disadvantages. It always makes very conscious choices, with ultimately only one goal: to provide you with a reliable and affordable end product.