An Inside Look: 3D Printing with Metal X—From Design to Part
In recent years, 3D printers have become streamlined, user-friendly devices useful for anything from prototyping to tooling, and with advancements in materials and production, they can also be valuable resources for production parts. The Metal X features a new kind of metal printing and end-to-end software tracking, making it the simplest way to manufacture metal parts. The full system consists of:
- A 3D printer with a fully enclosed build chamber, ultra-quiet motion system, and environmentally controlled material storage.
- Eiger, the cloud-based 3D printer management software, built-in touchscreen interface, and automatic material tracking.
- A wash station to remove the primary binding material after printing.
- A high-performing, high-value sintering furnace to convert parts to pure metal.
Metal Printing Overview
The Metal X produces metal parts via atomic diffusion additive manufacturing, or ADAM, a hybrid of metal injection molding and 3D printing. The process starts with a design exported from a CAD system to Eiger and then printed using a combination of metal powder and a plastic binding agent, which keeps the powder in place as it goes through post-processing. After printing, the part is washed to remove the binder and fired in the sinter furnace to solidify the metal. When the process is complete, you’re left with a metal part that can be processed and treated the same way you’d treat parts produced by other means.
How it Works
Preparation. When you bring a CAD file into Eiger (as an STL), the software automatically scales the part up by about 20% to compensate for post-processing shrinkage. With the part open, you can select material, original units, and more or less scaling, as well as view part details such as print time, wash time, material cost, and more. When you’re ready, click the Print button to start the job.
Printing. The Metal X printer prints the part as well as a support structure with a white layer of ceramic between the two to ensure the support structure doesn’t adhere to the part during post-processing. Once the print job is done, remove the green part and the thin, plastic sheet it’s printed on from the printer and remove the part from the print sheet.
Part washing/drying. After the part is printed, it shows in the Wash utility in the Eiger software as “Ready to Wash” with a time to completion. Put the part in the wash—a solvent bath that breaks down the binder holding the metal in place—and the software will send notifications of status while it’s processing. After washing, put the part in the dryer on the other side of the wash station, to allow the last of the solvent to evaporate.
Sintering. The last processing step is firing the part to harden it. Set the part into the sinter furnace on a ceramic plate (a “stage”) and start the furnace, which tells Eiger the part is in process. The software monitors progress in debinding, heating the metal, and cooling the part down. Once it has cooled, remove the part from the furnace and from the stage. Then remove the support structure from the part, as the ceramic layer has now become powder and there’s nothing holding the two pieces together.
Finished part. Once the binder is removed and the part is sintered, you have solid metal, which can receive any additional post-processing it might need, whether heat treatment, milling, powder coating, or the like. It’s ready for use.
Get the parts you need in 24 hours
Be ready to respond to customer demands or create replacement parts for your plant with a variety of materials quickly with the Metal X. Easily print complex geometries, eliminate your tooling spend, saving your organization precious hours and dollars. Materials include: 17-4 PH Stainless steel, H13, A2, D2 Tool Steel grades, Iconel 625, Copper, 316L Stainless Steel, and Titanium Ti6Al4V.
Some business benefits for 3D Metal Printing include:
- Get products to market faster
- Reduce manufacturing costs
- Improve supply chain efficiency
Learn more about the Metal X today: