Metal additive manufacturing – our new blog series begins

In 2018, we announced that we would start metal additive manufacturing. The innovation opened up completely new opportunities for the Finnish engineering industry. Our new blog series now takes a thorough look at these opportunities and their foundations.

The year 2019 was the year of metal additive manufacturing

In 2018, we announced that we would be investing in metal additive manufacturing, or more familiarly 3D printing*. The change was significant, both for us and for the entire Finnish engineering industry. Metal additive manufacturing opened up opportunities to many Finnish companies to produce metal components in a completely new way.

Since then, we have had numerous discussions about metal additive manufacturing. The discussions have been fruitful and have often covered, among other things, the technical factors involved in metal additive manufacturing, when it should be used, what materials can be used and what the costs comprise.

Quite often, we have had to justify how we are truly able to produce components with high-quality metallurgical properties and intricate geometries, which would never be possible in machining, for example. Likewise, we have carefully explained numerous times the capabilities of our EOS M 290 equipment for industry and the materials we have in our product range now and in the future.

These discussions were real eye-openers for us, so for the entire spring of 2019, we decided to dedicate our blogs to explaining metal 3D printing.

* We use both “(material) additive manufacturing” and “3D printing” to refer to the same thing. We do, however, prefer the term “(material) additive manufacturing” and will use it from now on, because we believe it describes industrial production better. After all, that is what we at 3D Formtech specialise in.

In our blog series, we talk about hybrid printing, for example.

Welcome to our guided tour of the wonderful world of metal additive manufacturing

The purpose of our new blog series is to provide hard facts about metal additive manufacturing to increase understanding of it and to invalidate ingrained misunderstandings and misconceptions related to it.

We will explain the process of metal additive manufacturing as a whole, from the designing stage to production and finishing. We will also explain the significance of the equipment you use as regards the quality of the result and the materials that can be used in metal additive manufacturing. Here’s a little preview of the topics we will be dealing with during the winter and spring:

Metallurgical quality in additive manufacturing. Metal additive manufacturing utilises the direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) method, which creates a virtually non-porous metal. Due to its quality, non-porous metal is suitable to use anywhere, which is indicated by the fact that 3D printed components parts are used in the turbine blades of aircraft engines, for example. We want to offer readers of our blog series testimony of the high quality and types of metallurgical properties metal additive manufacturing renders with the right kind of equipment, quality materials and skilled experts. We will also publish the results of tensile strength tests for all the materials we use for everyone interested.

The process is different from the process in 3D printing plastic. The conceptions many people have of the 3D printing process originate in the production of plastic. In some respects, 3D printing of metal components is like the production of plastic: the material is melted with a laser, and it is in a powder form. However, it is crucial to understand the role of designing in metal additive manufacturing compared to production with plastic. Namely, many different factors must be taken into account, and successful designing calls for not only specialised expertise but also significant investments in designing software.  You could even say that 30–40% of the whole process in metal additive manufacturing takes place before the actual production stage.

Hybrid printing employs the best aspects of different production methods. Few people realise that the best possible end result in producing components is often obtained by combining traditional production methods (for example machining) with additive manufacturing. This is exactly what hybrid printing is all about. 3D printing is used to add shapes and properties to a machined component that would have been impossible to achieve with machining alone. This is an excellent way to combine the cost savings in machining simple components and the indisputable advantages of additive manufacturing in making components with intricate, highly optimised shapes.

These and many other topics will be covered in more detail in the upcoming months!

Additive fabrication alone is not enough

The purpose of our blogs is not to present metal additive manufacturing as a method superior in every aspect to the traditional production methods. Not at all. Although we discuss the benefits of material additive manufacturing, here and in the future, we want to emphasise that additive manufacturing is only one option on the entire palette of production methods. 

Additive manufacturing does, however, have undeniable advantages within the range of production methods, and the series of blogs we are now launching will provide companies with information on how they can make the most of these advantages. So, if you want to know what metal additive manufacturing is all about and what it takes for companies to take full advantage of it, follow our series.

You can also contact us at any time to ask for more information about metal additive manufacturing. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Use the form below to ask any questions you may have about additive manufacturing. We will get back to you as soon as possible.