A silent revolution in low cost metal printing is building and developing, mostly out of sight. Previously, we have described what characterizes these companies and we have examined a number of players in this market. Now, thanks in part to the readers who have contacted me, I will be adding other companies that are also working on low cost metal machines. If you know more, please let me know via Joris (at) 3dprint.com.
Alkimat is a Brazilian metal 3D printing company that owns a cylindrical construction machine. Interestingly, the cylinder is horizontal, and inside that cylinder is another platform of cylindrical construction that is vertical. It works similar to Trumpf powder bed laser melting machines and can print 316L stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, copper, brass, Inconel, some ceramics and polymers. Being able to print polymers such as polyamide on the same machine as metals is unique. The emphasis is on 316L, aluminum and Inconel 718.
The machine, the Laser Funde 200, has open parameters and allows users to modify and have access to all necessary parameters. Relevant machine parameters can be updated and changed to make it easier to enter, add your own materials, or qualify new materials. In this regard, it is a very similar configuration to that offered by Open Additive and Freemelt.
Headmade uses selective laser sintering (SLS), or powder bed fusion, of polymers to make metal parts. A metal polymer matrix powder is shaped and sintered in the machine. The polymer melts, leaving a green metallic component which can then be sintered and peeled off in an oven. In addition, unused materials can be recycled for new construction.
Headmade does what BASF Ultrafuse does for material extrusion. The little extra: The company claims a uniform shrinkage of 16%, which would make its process much easier to predict than other MIM, binder jet and bonded metal technologies. I don’t understand why they haven’t been bought by BASF or EOS yet. The company now works with Tungsten, Stellite, 316L and 6Al4V Titanium.
This process is ingenious and could potentially mean that many polymer systems could produce metal parts. This would make metal much more accessible to an installed base of tens of thousands of highly productive SLS systems. It would also be exciting to be able to process metal parts on a Sinterit Lisa or the Formlabs Fuse1, turning these super affordable systems into metal part suppliers. If Headmade makes it work well, it could drastically change our industry.
No, Incus is not a PR agency that has successfully branched out into 3D printing itself. Incus is a company that offers a series of affordable machines dubbed Hammer. The most affordable is the Hammer Lab35, which uses lithography metal fabrication (LMM) developed at ETH Zurich.
The process is similar to the 3D printing processes used by Lithoz for ceramics and, indeed, the companies are cooperating. A combination of tank polymerization and metallic powder results in a green part which is then peeled off. Similar to Admatec, HoloAM and others, this means that they could produce large series with good definition, precision and surface quality. Densities of up to 99% may be possible and the company is working on several materials, including 316L.
This will be an interesting technology especially for small parts that need to be smooth on interior areas or very precise, while still being cost effective. The low-cost Lab35 means universities, materials companies, and manufacturing companies now have a very affordable way to experiment with the technology. The company aims to launch a production system next year.
Meta Additive is a binder spray company that uses its own binders. Their idea is that the new proprietary binders will reduce shrinkage, warping and allow them to increase construction speeds. The company hopes to reduce shrinkage rates to two percent. Meta Additive binders are filled with molecular ink, nanoparticles and microparticles. The company hopes that its formulations will eventually allow it to skip debinding steps and go directly from the 3D printer to heat treatment. This would significantly reduce costs. Meta Additive also aims to also perform a multi-material binder jet. The team is currently researching and working with Xaar and others to bring their technology to market.
Tritone’s ingenious 3D printing process claims to be able to manufacture parts at a rate of 1600 cc / h using titanium Ti64, stainless steels (316L 15-5 PH, 17-4 PH), tool steels ( M2, D2, H13, 4340), copper and Inconel 718. A rotating construction creates a wax mold, which is then filled with a suspended mixture of binder and metal powder. The resulting parts are unbound and sintered.
The company promises 99% dense parts and a larger part size than usual between 2mm and over 350mm. The company’s Tritone Dominant machine has a build volume of 400 x 240 x 120 mm and can produce layer thicknesses from 40 to 200 microns. The system comes with software that allows you to manage the machine’s five build tables. Tritone’s technology is new and from the outset the company has a variety of materials available while promising high productivity. The value proposition is interesting, but will they be the ones to make low-cost metal a reality?