3D printer manufacturer Prodways has collaborated with French research institute CEA to work on a new metal 3D printing process.
October 4, 2016: The process currently in development uses metal powder combined with organic binders to create metal parts. The first successful production of titanium parts has just been completed.
Prodways hasn’t released details regarding the process itself. Another company relying on binders to create metal parts is ExOne with their Binder Jetting technology. There, layers of metal powder are being fused using binders and printed objects are then sintered to achieve high density.
Prodways believes that this technology has substantial advantages when compared to methods currently in use, such as five times faster printing speeds, the ability to work with all types of metals, higher degree of precision, reduction of overall operation time and production cost as well as less energy consumption.
With their study having started two years ago, the developing team still faces numerous challenges, but the first successful production is a major step forward for the project.
Additionally, Prodways is refining its proprietary MOVINGLight technology to create metal parts with lost wax casting processes, enabling the production of part with more complex geometries. Moreover, newly developed resins should further enhance MOVINGLight technology for casting metal parts. Several companies in the aeronautic and automotive industries are currently testing this process.
Prodways is dedicated to strengthening its position on the metal 3D printing market. Its subsidiary Initial is one of the largest producers of additive manufactured metal parts with more than 10 years of experience in the sector.
October 17, 2016: Update – More details on Prodways’ new metal 3D printing technology
In an interview with Engineering.com Prodways unveiled more details on their new metal 3D printing method, that we now know is based on the company’s existing MOVINGLight technology. Prodways’ V6000 3D printer, that is able to create ceramic objects, can now also print metal objects by curing the viscous metal paste containing metal powder and organic binder. Printed parts are then sintered in an oven to burn out the binder and reach currently a density of over 90% which the company believes can be increased to around 99% in future.
Alban D’Halluin, managing director of Prodways, explained that the new material must combine three important properties: It needs to be reactive enough, so the UV light can get deep enough into the material in order to cure it; it has to be stable enough to cure quickly but also contain a high percentage of metal powder for the sintering process; and it must be possible to de-bidn the metal from the binder during sintering.
Prodways is currently exploring what applications and processes can benefit from their new technology, with metal injection moulding being one of them.
Metal 3D printing with MOVINGLight technology offers some general advantages over other metal 3D printing processes. Sizeable batches can be produced up to five times faster than with direct metal laser sintering for example. D’Halluin believes that their technology will bring higher levels of productivity to metal 3D printing. Also, no support structures are needed, thus post-processing is not required and interior channels as well as other complex shapes can be created within the object.
Prodways is currently working on new materials for the process. The company did not release any details on when the metal materials will be available for its V6000 machine.
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