3D Printing Metal Powders – Pros and Cons

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Metal Powders

A growing number of additive manufacturing technologies use a variety of materials to build up products. Photo-polymer resins, extruded filaments, plastic powders and pure metals are all used in additive processes to shape objects.

The most common are Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), which belong to the powder bed fusion 3D printing family. Both processes scan metal particles and selectively fuse them together, building up a finished part layer by layer.

There are also many other additive manufacturing methods that involve melting metal powders and bonding them together to create a finished part. These include Bound Powder Extrusion (BPE), Directed Energy Deposition (DED) and others.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Metal Powderbed Fusion?

While PBF is an exciting new option in the world of additive manufacturing, it can present some challenges. For example, the process requires the use of specialized energy sources such as a laser, plasma arc or electron beam. This can cause significant costs to the user and may be difficult to scale up or down as demand increases.

The process is not suitable for parts that are large, complex or contain a high amount of heat-sensitive components. Additionally, parts that are too heavy can be easily damaged during the processing process.

Some powders can be resuspended during the process, which can release harmful metal particles into the indoor work environment. These particles are a fraction of the size of particles released during welding and may cause health concerns when they become airborne.

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