Designing for Metal AM is Key
For now, metal AM is not exactly a manufacturing floor or engineering department staple, but it is making headway. A recent survey from Market Reports World projects the metals 3D printing market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 22% from 2021 to 2025, increasing revenue by $1.3 billion. Grandview Research is projecting 27.8% CAGR growth between 2020 and 2027, fueled by increased adoption in the medical, automotive, and aerospace and defense sectors.
Don’t underestimate post-processing. Because it’s still relatively unknown in broad market circles, many companies tend to look at metal 3D printing, and metal AM in particular, as a black box. Experts say it’s a misconception to assume most offerings are a plug-and-play machine and that there won’t be significant machining and finishing work required to ensure a part comes out finished as intended.
Matsuura’s LUMEX Avance-25 and Avance-60 metal laser sintering system focus on a hybrid approach, which streamlines post-processing work, Houle contends. The systems combine a powder bed metal AM platform with subtractive machining capabilities to ensure quality parts are finished with maximum precision.
SPEE3D’s supersonic 3D powder deposition (SP3D) process also helps defray post-processing challenges while operating up to 100 to 1,000 times faster than traditional MJF 3D printing processes, according to Bruce Colter, vice president and general manager for the Americas region of the company.
The software also features standardized recipes for parts, negating the need to develop new process parameters for every print job, saving time and reducing the need for SLS 3D printing specialists. Assure uses a multi-sensor defect detection system to predict bulk material properties for each part and to determine print health in real time, ensuring companies can move to production with verifiable part-to-part consistency.
“Historically, engineers have had to wait for something to be printed to scan and check results,” says Zach Murphree, vice president of technical partnerships at Velo3D.
Do embrace an iterative approach to design and manufacturing. That’s at the heart of the benefits of SLA 3D printing of all types. “Don’t be afraid to put something on the machine,” says Patrick Dunne, vice president of advanced application development at 3D Systems. “Maybe it doesn’t work, maybe it breaks, but it’s the ability to iterate at a high frequency and embrace Agile as a design approach that’s so interesting.”