Exploring New Horizons in 3D Metal Printing

Metal filament 3D printing offers a galaxy of benefits: Geometric design freedom without the need for molds or castings, outstanding strength and corrosion resistance even with increased form complexity and a greatly simplified production process from prototype to serial production. Even better, the major investments in machines and tooling required by previous metal 3D printing methods are now history.

Metal 3D printing has made quantum leaps in recent years and is now more accessible and scalable than ever before. The rapid analysis capabilities of virtual simulation tools and the latest generation of filaments are now unlocking the full potential of metal 3D printing.

Metal filament material combines metal powders and binders to produce the desired geometry via Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). Once printed, catalytic debinding and sintering process are applied to produce the final, full metal part. To see whether your parts are ready for this industrially proven process, our Virtual Engineering team is here to support you with various simulations at each process stage:

Metal filament 3D printing process at a glance.

 

During catalytic debinding, the binding agents are removed in preparation for final sintering. This can cause a loss of stability and structural integrity in the printed component. The result of the debinding process, the ‘brown part,’ can be quite fragile depending on its individual geometry and features. Lacking stability, parts not suited to this process can suffer from distortion or even collapse under their own weight. What can be done to avoid this? In our experience, 3D printed component design and printing orientation play crucial roles in successful printing and debinding. If gravitational forces cause tensile and compressive stresses above a certain limit, a component can no longer maintain its shape.

To reduce the risk of distortion or collapse, our Virtual Engineering Team recommends performing a virtual debinding stability analysis before printing. This provides an estimation of internal stresses to evaluate the part’s structural integrity during debinding – and also gives a visual indication of which structural features are at risk. With our Debinding Stability Simulation Guideline, you can quickly and easily determine which features may not yet be optimal for metal filament printing.

 

Analysis of internal stress during debinding. The red and blue areas show the critical tensile and compressive stresses the component will experience during debinding.

 

Besides checking a component’s features for potential critical stresses, it is important to select the most stabile orientation for it during debinding. The right reorientation of a component can significantly reduce internal stresses, increase its survivability, and remove the need for redesign. Especially for components that take advantage of the increased structural complexity provided by today’s metal filament printing, it may not be obvious to new users which features might be critical. Our Virtual Orientation Simulation determines the optimal debinding orientation, giving your component the best possible outcome.

Once debinding is complete, sintering is carried out to produce the full metal component. During sintering, the printed parts undergo anisotropic shrinkage. Additionally, specific geometric characteristics can lead to warpage in the final printed part. With our Virtual Sintering Simulation, shrinking and warpage effects can be accurately predicted to help minimize the time-consuming and costly need for trial-and-error-loops. Our optimization program determines the correct pre-warped and pre-scaled ‘green part’ geometry to produce the pre-finishing final part.

Iterative optimization program to define the optimal green part geometry.

Supported by the corresponding simulations, successful metal filament 3D printing is now easier than ever before. Our experts are here to support you at every step.

Can’t wait to start metal 3D printing at home? The most common CAD software offers basic simulation systems to support your project. Download our Debinding Stability Simulation Guideline here and then let our specialists guide you.

Our stainless steel composite metal filament Ultrafuse® 316L is designed for ultimate ease of use and handling on conventional Fused Filament Fabrication 3D printers to produce 316L stainless steel parts. Top-quality metal part printing now has a lower total cost of ownership and has never been easier, faster or more affordable. It’s a perfect choice for applications such as tooling, jigs and fixtures, functional prototypes and small-series production.

For more information on UItrafuse® 316L click here. Interested in finding our distributors? A complete list can be accessed here.

Would you like to order some 3D objects printed with Ultrafuse 316L? Upload your file quickly and easily via the Sculpteo digital platform here.