The 3D metal machine is a laser-based technology that uses powdered metals. Like light Sintering, a high-powered laser selectively binds together particles on the powder bed while the machine distributes even layers of metallic powder. Support structures can be automatically generated and built simultaneously in the same material and are later manually removed from the 3d metal printing machine. Once complete, that part undergoes heat treatment.
How does the 3D metal printing machine work?
- The build area is first filled with inert gas, for example, argon, to minimize the oxidation of the metal powder, and then it is heated to the optimal build temperature.
- A thin sheet of metal powder is spread over the build platform, and a high-power laser scans the cross-section of the component, melting or fusing the metal particles and creating the next layer. The entire space of the model is scanned, so the part is built fully solid.
- When the process is complete, the build platform moves downwards by one layer thickness, and the recoater spreads another thin layer of metal powder. The process will then be repeated until the whole part is complete.
- The parts are fully encapsulated in the metal powder when the whole process is finished. Unlike the polymer particles bed fusion process, the parts are attached to the build platform through support structures.
- Support in the 3D metal printing machine is built using the same material as the part. It is always required to mitigate the warping and distortion due to the high processing temperatures.
- The excess powder is manually removed when the product cools to room temperature. The parts are typically heat-treated while still attached to the build platform to relieve residual stresses.
Then the products are detached from the build plate via cutting, machining, or wire EDM and are ready for use or further post-processing.