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sembly. Direct metal printing more than halved lead times, from as long as eight weeks to two or three, while the cost per part dropped from $250-$1,500 to $25-$150. Laser powder forming is an addi-

tive manufacturing technology that uses a metal powder injected into a molten pool created by a high power laser beam. T e process can go from metal and

metal oxide powder to metal parts, in many cases without any secondary operations. Metal powder is applied only where material is being added to the part at that moment and has primary applications in repair and overhaul, rapid prototyping, rapid manufacturing, and limited-run manufacturing for aerospace, defense, and medical markets. T e technology covers several

alloys, including titanium, stainless steel, aluminum, and other specialty

materials. Mechanical testing reveals outstanding as-fabricated mechanical properties T is process holds oppor- tunities for die and tooling repair.

Competing Considerations

T e design freedoms associated with building something layer by layer is the biggest advantage of additive manufacturing. Cavities, internal pas- sages and other complex features can be designed directly into the compo- nent, without as much consideration for the manufacturing method and/or secondary machining. “Additive manufacturing can resolve

a lot of constraints in traditional manufacturing,” said Andrew Snow, senior VP, EOS of North America Inc. “You can reduce part numbers through design, you can reduce weight by get- ting rid of unnecessary material, you can produce fully customized parts for on-demand-type applications.”

Additionally, 3-D-printed metal

components do not require gating or risers and can be produced without upfront investments in tooling. If a small number of parts are needed quickly, they can be printed and shipped in a matter of days, thanks to a reduction in up-front work necessary to manufacture the part. “In direct metal printing, you don’t

have to worry about designing gating and risering. You are just printing the part,” Potts said. “If you’re going to pour metal into a mold, you have to go through quite a bit of engineering to make sure you’ll get a sound casting. But with metal printing, you don’t re- ally have that early work.” While engineers are afforded

Sleep Easy!

design freedoms not seen in other manufacturing processes, includ- ing metalcasting, production speeds have hampered the technology’s ability to produce large amounts of components in a relatively short time. The sheer time needed to build a metal part layer-by-layer is the biggest driver of cost. “T e two major cost drivers solely

in printing parts—not post machining, heat treating, etc.—are materials and machine costs,” Ewan said. “Materials are a factor, but a relatively small one. What the cost really comes from is the time to run the machine.” A component’s design can improve

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effi ciency; by decreasing a build’s height, the 3-D printer can complete the layering process more quickly. But the technology is not at a point where it can produce production parts in the hundreds or thousands. It has been a commercially viable short-run production method for a half-decade, but larger volumes will require faster printers with larger build boxes. For the powder bed fusion print-

ing process, the build box off ers another constraint. T e laser is fi xed and then steered to the powder bed with mirrors. T e beam can experi- ence problems when it is redirected farther and farther from the center of the build box. T ese complications can lead to components that are out of tolerance, variances in the laser’s energy and other complications. Cur- rently, powder bed fusion is restricted

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