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[Desktop engineering] Metal 3D Printing on the Rise

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Metal 3D Printing on the Rise
From ordinary to exotic, AM machines and materials are getting the spotlight.

Plastics may dominate the media coverage of 3D printing, but metal applications have quietly made tremendous progress in the past decade. We’re talking real metal, real parts, that can last longer than traditionally made pieces. In fact, so many systems, service bureaus and material providers now focus on this process that one article can only skim their recent activity.

In witness to change and growth, companies with prototyping in their name now do end-part manufacturing; more sources exist for metal powders, and a major service bureau has been bought up by no less than GE Aviation. Metal additive manufacturing (AM) is truly a mainstream process.

Systems and Processes

Time was you could count metal-capable AM systems on one hand. Terry Wohlers, the AM industry expert whose annual Wohlers Report has been a valued resource since 1996, says 11 established metal AM system manufacturers are now operating worldwide, with three traditionally active in the U.S.

“Among the major players in metals are Arcam, Concept Laser, EOS, ExOne, Phenix Systems (now a part of 3D Systems), ReaLizer, Renishaw and SLM Solutions, with Optomec producing systems for more specialized applications,” Wohlers observes.

Metal AM technology has developed impressively in a relatively short time, Wohlers says, adding, “In some ways, it has developed further in 10 years than plastics systems have developed in 25 years.”

A key element of this success comes from the wide range of approaches for building layered parts from metal: melting powders with lasers or electron beams, or binding powders with liquids then sintering the products. Similarities and differences abound with each manufacturer’s system, whether in the price, material options, part size and detail accommodated, or required infrastructure (an argon supply, for example). An increasing number of systems already offer options in stainless steel, tool steel, bronze alloys, cobalt-chrome (CoCr), Inconel, aluminum and titanium (See “Additive Manufacturing 101,” DE November 2010), but developers are not resting on their laurels.

Finding Niches, Filling Needs

German direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) equipment provider EOS has the strongest presence in the States, with systems at both service bureaus and manufacturers. Thanks to the “aging of society,” the company sees real growth in the medical business as devices call for more functional integration and miniaturization. To meet this need, EOS has been reaching out to partner with various industrial end-users on joint development projects.

(continued)
http://www.deskeng.com/articles/aabmxc.htm

"Cliffnotes":
*EOS’ micro-laser-sintering (MLS) process : MLS system can create parts at full density (99%) or with controlled porosities down to 30%
*ExOne's inkjet printing technology to deposit a liquid binder onto powdered material -- They were bought by 3DSystems by the way
*Selective laser melting (SLM) - used by ReaLizer , SLM solutions and now Renishaw

*Phenix Systems also bought by 3Dysystems - has medical device focus
Edited by AlphaC - 11/4/13 at 2:28pm
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Metallic 3d printers have been out for a while now, and they are quite successful. Why is this news again?
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