Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is a process of building components in layers directly from 3D CAD data, without the need for complex and costly tools and with minimal waste material.
Metal-based AM processes were developed in the 1990s and introduced to the market soon after. There are many different AM metal technologies available today. Some of the more widespread are listed below. The table gives an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each technology.
|Small series||Part complexity||Productivity||Surface finish||Resolution||Part size||Materials|
The table above, produced by Digital Metal, offers an at-a-glance comparison of its technology and alternative manufacturing processes, based on its industry experience. It compares AM processes like SLM (Selective Laser Melting), EBM (Electron Beam Melting), DED (Direct Energy Deposition) and conventional technology like MIM (Metal Injection Moulding) with Digital Metal’s high precision binder jetting.
All AM technologies have their pros and cons, every organisation must consider what’s best for their application needs. All AM technologies are advantageous for prototyping or small series production but the greater amount of energy used during melting for higher productivity results in a tradeoff of less intricacy and limited surface resolution, while MIM is only 2D and productive for really small applications.
Comparatively Digital Metal offers a unique combination as it provides high precision details, fine surfaces, print tolerances, and high productivity of multiple parts in a single print that be either uniform or customised.