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Additive Manufacturing

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Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing processes take the information from a computer-aided design (CAD) file and convert it to a stereolithography (STL) file. In this process, the drawing made in the CAD software is approximated by triangles and sliced containing the information of each layer that is going to be printed. The first form of creating layer by layer a three-dimensional object using CAD was rapid prototyping, developed in the 1980’s for creating models and prototype parts. So far different additive manufacturing processes have been developed which can be classified into liquid base, solid base and powder base, as shown in figure 1. The liquid-and powder-based processes seem more promising than solid-based processes of which LOM is most commonly used. It was not until 2004 that EBM, Prometal, LENS, and Polyjet became available.

Figure 1. Additive manufacturing processes. Reprinted from Ref 1.*

Some additive manufacturing processes use thermal energy from laser or electron beams, which is directed via optics to melt or sinter metal or plastic powder together. Other processes use inkjet-type printing heads to accurately spray binder or solvent onto powdered ceramic or polymer. 3D printing (3DP) is a MIT-licensed process in which water-based liquid binder is supplied in a jet onto a starch-based powder to print the data from a CAD drawing. It is quickly approaching mainstream adoption as a highly flexible processing technique that can be applied to polymer, metal, and ceramic. To date, polymer remains one of the most versatile materials. The use of polymers in 3D printing encompasses thermoplastics, thermosets, elastomers, hydrogels, functional polymers, polymer blends, composites, and biological systems. There have been only a limited number of commercial alloys used in 3D printing so far, such as titanium based alloys, Al6061, tool steels, super alloys, stainless steel and refractories. Ti-6Al-4V has been by far the most extensively investigated.

Additive manufacturing technologies have been welcomed in the aerospace, automotive and biotechnology industry because of the possibility to manufacture difficult-to-find parts by other conventional manufacturing methods. In developing a business case for the use of advanced manufacturing vice conventional manufacturing methods, many factors must be taken into account. Some of these include (i) fixed cost/nonrecurring manufacturing costs, (ii) the cost of process qualification and component certification, (iii) logistical costs, and (iv) the cost of time. The additive manufacturing laboratory in Matexcel offers expert advice and on demand support for your rapid prototyping and 3D printing needs. For example, we provide custom production of your working parts with high precision and reduced cost, which helps you to bring a product to the market quickly.

Reference:
Wong, Kaufui V. “A review of additive manufacturing.” ISRN Mechanical Engineering 2012.

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