Complete Guide to Designing Parts for Metal 3D Printing
Over the years, technological advancements have led to the rapid growth of metal 3D printing as a popular manufacturing process. At Creatingway, we commonly use this process in producing metal additive manufactured components since it offers us a wider range of freedom in terms of design, consolidation, and component simplification. It is also significantly useful during the decreased supply chain, increased demand, and mid-volume component manufacture. Here is further insight into the metal 3D printing process, design considerations, the technology and materials we use, and the industries that benefit.
The Metal 3D Printing Process
Selective Metal Laser Melting and Direct Metal Laser Sintering are examples of powder bed fusion technologies that utilize a beam of laser in the layer by layer fusion of metal powder. Many layers eventually lead to the formation of the entire intended part as each layer is a cross-sectional representation of the part at a certain height. The machines jet out a specific thickness of metal powder prior to emitting the laser beam. The process continually repeats itself until all the layers undergo complete exposure. The time it takes us to construct any metal 3D part is dependent on the machine parameters and the size of the component under processing.
SLM and DMLS are common metal 3D printing machines that generally utilize the same technology to manufacture parts. The only significant difference is that DMLS sinters the metal powder while SLM achieves a full melt. DMLS can, therefore, only work with alloys such as nickel whereas SLM mainly works with single metal components like aluminum.
Designing for Metal Printing
To help achieve better part quality, dimensional accuracy, and surface finish, we at Creatingway follow a few guidelines when designing parts for metal 3D printing. A few of these design recommendations are dependent on the laser and material parameters but limit themselves within the geometric guidelines to aid in ensuring the component turns out as the client needs it. The general guidelines include:
The minimum thickness that would ensure successful 3D prints across most materials is 0.4mm. Finer structures are possible, but this is heavily reliant on the orientation, printer diameters, and type of material.
Holes with diameters ranging between 0.5mm and 6 mm often do not require support during printing. Support free production of hole diameters between 6 mm and 10 mm are dependent on orientation. Horizontal holes that have a diameter larger than 10 mm must have supportive structures.
The smallest reliable pin diameter is 1 mm. Anything smaller may be possible upon a reduction in contour sharpness.
They are holes in hollowed metal parts that we use to remove un-melted metal powder in the core. We recommend the use of multiple boreholes that are 2-5mm in diameter for greater efficiency in the removal of the metal powder.
- Unsupported Edges
The max length of a cantilever-design overhanging surface is 0.5 mm. An overhanging horizontal surface that is 1mm long must have support on both ends. The rule also applies to engraved or embossed features with unsupported surfaces.
- Overhanging Surfaces
The minimum angle where supportive structures are not essential on an overhanging surface is 45 degrees relative to the horizontal surface. You may be able to further reduce the angle by increasing the laser parameters.
Since we use high temperatures to affect both the layer by layer nature of the part construction and metal printing process, the use of supportive structures is key. We utilize the supportive structures in connecting unsupported geometry to the build platform. It additionally acts as a heat sink for heat energy. Here is a further elaboration on the role of support structures on metal 3D printed parts.
- The residual stress that arises from differential cooling means that each layer of the metal print wants to distort and curl up. Adding supportive structures aids in drawing heat away from the parts and also anchors it down to a solid base.
- Metal printing involves sintering or melting layers of metal powder at extremely high temperatures. Each layer, therefore, requires a solid foundation to build on, unlike SLS. To achieve this, we at Creatingway, first print supportive structures for parts not on the build plate, the build solid sections on top of them.
Metal Printing Materials and Their Applications
Some of the common metal printing materials are namely, aluminum, martensitic hardening steel, Cobalt-Chrome Alloy, Stainless Steel, Titanium, and Nickel Alloy. We mainly use them in the manufacture of
- Aerospace and automotive parts
- Injection molding parts for series manufacture of other mechanical parts
- Parts in use the medical industry
- Production of parts that are likely to encounter severe thermal conditions which increase the risk of oxidation and oxidation. These are for example burners; combustion chambers support in industrial furnaces
The above guide gives an in-depth description of the metal 3D printing process, design considerations, the technology and materials we use, and the industries that benefit from the appliances we manufacture. For any further inquiries, simply contact us now.
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