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SPARKING CHANGE?


ADVANCES IN DIRECT METAL PRINTING


The 3-D printing of metal components remains a developing manufacturing process, but it has the potential to signifi cantly enhance the metalcasting industry.


3 NICHOLAS LEIDER, ASSOCIATE EDITOR


-D printing, as just about every business and tech publica- tion has boasted in recent months, is a disruptive technol- ogy that has experienced remarkable growth in the last fi ve years. Experts estimate additive manufacturing has been and will continue to expand by as much as 30% annually. Met- alcasters have already seen the impact of 3-D printing in the production of patterns for investment castings and sand


cores and molds—a process that can shave weeks off lead times and reduce costs related to product development. 3-D printing metal has lagged behind methods of printing other materials, but recent advancements have led to the technology being used for prototyping and small-run produc- tion parts. With fi rms like GE, Airbus, Boeing and Ford Motor Co. pouring millions of dollars into direct metal printing, the technology appears to be primed for an increased presence among other traditional manufactur- ing capabilities, including metalcasting, especially as printing speeds improve and more materials are made available. “T e industry is moving from a


prototyping past to production future,” said Tim Caff rey, senior consultant for Wohlers Associates, a leading consult- ing group in additive manufacturing. “It’s in the process of growing up.” 3-D printing of metal, as it ma-


Direct metal laser sintering is a micro-welding process that binds powdered metal. 30 | METAL CASTING DESIGN & PURCHASING | May/Jun 2015


tures and grows out of its infancy, is a technology that should be monitored by the metalcasting industry and its customers. Advancements could impact metalcasting and the supply chain in a whole in a variety of ways.


Photo courtesy of EOS


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