The first attempts to create metal products using three-dimensional printing were made at the end of the 20th century. Despite numerous setbacks and obstacles, researchers have succeeded in this area. Today, metal 3D printing is a costly process, but it is quite feasible.
Applications of metal 3D printing
As a rule, small-sized household items are created using a 3D metal printer. These are various frames, fasteners, handles, figurines, lamps. Interior items made of metal are highly durable, and the characteristic shine creates a special atmosphere in the room, so there is always a demand for metal interior items. This was counted on by American Standard Brands, which presented a line of unusual metal cranes. The mixers are manufactured using SLS technology – selective laser sintering, which allows you to create a structure of any size and shape. It is planned to manufacture a whole series of these kitchen appliances. Of course, such a pleasure will not be cheap – from 12 thousand dollars for one crane. However, those who can afford it will appreciate the elegance and unique design of the devices.
Means of transport
The printing of steel structures for cars or airplanes is no longer a surprise. The United States even introduced the first fully 3D printed vehicle. However, only some parts of the interior of the car were metal, the body was made of plastic. But a team of students from the Netherlands managed to create an almost incredible – a bicycle, the entire structure of which, except for rubber tires, is metal. This miracle of technology was brought to life through the use of a three-dimensional printer.
The creators of the world’s first bicycle constructed using 3D metal printing and welding of elements, called it the Arc Bicycle. The vehicle was manufactured using 3D printers-robots specially designed for this project.
3D technologies are used in architecture, as a rule, for printing reduced copies of various structures, models of future buildings, etc. So far, the creation of structures on a natural scale is referred to only as projects. One of the most ambitious projects is the construction of a pedestrian bridge using a 3D printer. For this, special equipment will be used – two 3D printers, which will initially be installed on different banks, then the cars will converge in the middle of the finished bridge. Of course, so far this is just a project, which, however, if implemented, could provoke a revolution in the world of three-dimensional printing. Plus, the design team is determined.
Basic metal 3D printing technologies
Today, there are several technologies that are used to create metal products.
Selective laser sintering
This technology also has a name SLS print or Direct metal laser sintering. Using this method allows you to create products based on a special material – metal clay. Initially, primitive shapes were made using laser sintering technology. Only ten years later they began to use it in industry …
How is the printing process going. On a special surface of the SLS printer, metal clay is applied, which has a powder consistency, and then smoothed out with a special roller. Each layer of metal clay is corrected with the help of laser radiation. The part is printed according to the programmed pattern.
Electron beam melting
The principle of EBM technology is practically the same as the method of selective laser sintering. Its main difference is that the layers of metal clay are printed under the influence of an electric pulse. This printing method is the most expensive because EBM printers are equipped with special installations with gold-plated or silver-plated mirrors.
How the printing process works. The creation of the product takes place in a vacuum, due to which it is possible to achieve high detail of objects. The movement of the laser beam, correcting the layers of metal clay, is carried out by manipulating electromagnetic fields, which allows you to print designs of any complexity.
Fused Fused Jet Modeling
FDM or fused deposition modeling is the simplest and most common technology. With its help, you can create products from steel, copper, iron, gold, silver and bronze. However, this method has a significant drawback – the impossibility of printing high-tech designs.
How the printing process works. The molten metal is extruded onto a cooled print bed, layer by layer, to form an object of the desired size and shape. Then the structure takes some time to harden.
Metal 3D printing is still a luxury today. Only the largest manufacturers can afford the production of structures using a three-dimensional printer. The price for 3D metal printing depends on the following factors:
- the type of material of the product being manufactured and the way it is processed after printing;
- size, shape and detail of the structure;
- terms of order fulfillment.
Thanks to the efforts of scientists and researchers, it is quite possible that in the near future there will be cheaper models of 3D printers for metal, which will lead to the massive introduction of three-dimensional printing of metal products in various fields of human activity.
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