Metal 3D printing is a unique additive manufacturing (AM) technology that has developed significantly over the last two decades. When complex pieces of intricate details need printing, AM technology is the ideal solution. It produces metal components layer by layer via melting, sintering or welding, and this process offers benefits such as lightweight but strong components. Although this technology has provided boundless opportunities for metal printing, a few drawbacks still need to be addressed. This blog post will look at how to overcome some of those critical challenges.
What are the Key Challenges in Metal 3D Printing?
Metal 3D printing provides many benefits to companies that manufacture metal components compared to traditional manufacturing methods. It is used not only for complex pieces but also for applications requiring lightweight metal parts still high in strength. However, despite the numerous advantages, a few key issues need to be addressed with the 3D printing process. This section will cover those issues and offer solutions to overcome them.
When a melted metal begins solidifying, specific errors can occur, leading the metal to crack. If a metal powder has not melted fully or remelts below surface level, this results in delamination, which causes cracking. Another issue is that when the metal cools down, contractions can happen. These contractions can deform a metal, which results in cracking.
Solution: You have a few options to prevent metal components from cracking. The first is to use a heated bed and set it to the correct temperature and the second option is to set the printer to a slightly slower printing speed. Additionally, ensure the bed is thoroughly cleaned after each use to remove any dirt, which can lead to warping.
If there are high porosity levels, as explained below, this can lead to low-density levels. The issue with low density is that it leads to cracking and fatigue, thus compromising the component's strength.
Solution: Unfortunately, some trial and error may be needed to solve any density issues. This is because multiple variables can cause density problems. Using high-quality metal powder is the first step in limiting density issues, and then the parameters of the material must be considered, such as particle distribution, shape and size.
High porosity is a common problem in 3D metal printing, as pores in the material can develop due to the powder used in the printing process. Pores are tiny holes that minimize the material's density and cause problems such as cracking and fatigue. An additional cause is the amount of energy used during the printing process, as both too much and too little can result in pores in the material.
Solution: As mentioned above, the quality of the metal powder is key to reducing this problem. Using high-quality raw materials should reduce the risk of pores. Another possible solution is to tune your printer to meet the required parameters of the metal.
Residual stress is one of the most common issues with metal 3D printing and can impact the integrity of the product. It is caused by the heating and cooling cycle that takes place during printing and results in components cracking or warping.
Solution: Residual stress can also be minimized by heating the printing bed correctly before and during printing, and estimating the required parameters of the metal during the printing process.
Other issues that companies mentioned included the availability and the cost of materials, manufacturing costs, surface finish and technology limitations.
JEOL and Metal 3D Printing
JEOL has developed an electron beam metal AM machine that utilizes our unique additive manufacturing technology to enhance 3D metal printing. Our JAM-5200EBM
was developed through decades of experience from the JEOL team, specializing in advanced electron optics and control technology. Our technology reduces the risks of the problems outlined above because the laser beam method in our metal 3d printer offers higher power and density than other market options.
For more information on metal 3D printing and how our AM machine overcomes the critical issues mentioned above, contact us today and speak to one of our experts.