Why Invest In 3D Printing?
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is hardly a new technology. While advancements are being made every day to further develop the capabilities of this technology, even the idea of starting a 3D printing business is now a conventional one. According to Statista, the industry was valued at about $12.6 billion in 2020.
Since its first iteration in Japan during the 1980s as a radio prototyping system, 3D printing has seen uses in virtually every major industry from aerospace engineering to nuclear power plants, and everything in between. Once you know how to get started with 3D printing and incorporate it into your production, you’ll see benefits that include:
- Prototyping: Making mock-ups is significantly easier and more accurate with technology that lets you hold prototypes of your ideal products within minutes.
- Accuracy and Complexity: Additive manufacturing lets manufacturers use metallic powders such as nickel alloy to produce complex and durable components in a single step.
- Cost-Effective: As a process that can be started and left on its own to complete, 3D printing saves manufacturers labor. Workers can shift their attention to more pressing matters while components are being printed, this also saves time and reduces scope for human error. With the distribution of metal powders now being widespread, the cost of materials has come down significantly.
How Do I Get Started With 3D Printing?
Before you start a business that incorporates 3D printing, you’ll have to learn the basics so you can decide which tech suits your goals the best. Among others, the two prominent processes involved in 3D printing are SLM (Selective Laser Melting) and DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering).
SLM involves melting the metal so that printing can take place in an inert environment. The commonly used metals for SLM are titanium and aluminum. Utilizing SLM is how to get started with 3D printing products that are highly durable, corrosion resistant, and suitable for use as components in industrial applications. The aerospace industry has also been known to use SLM to manufacture parts.
Since the metal powder is fully melted, cooling will be more prolonged and can therefore be more time-consuming for manufacturers. SLM has also been found to at times be unsuitable for well-controlled composite metals. Knowing how to get started with 3D printing demands a thorough understanding of the weaknesses of each process.
Starting DMLS 3D printing can be beneficial for businesses looking to prototype. In the DMLS process, a laser is used to sinter metal powder sequentially. This means that the metal isn’t completely melted. A large selection of metal alloy powders are suitable for DMLS including cobalt chromium, nickel alloy, and alloys of titanium. Since the metal is not completely melted, DMLS is less time consuming and is commonly used to create both prototypes, and even medical implements! A disadvantage is that the build size you’ll get with DMLS tends to be smaller than that of other processes. The common hurdle people face when they get started with a 3D metal printing business, which is how to navigate higher all-around costs, also applies to DMLS.
Additive manufacturing can be an asset to almost any market, but knowing which process suits your business in particular can help save you a lot of hassle in the long run. To sum up, if you’re looking to prototype and experiment, DMLS might be the right call. If your production process involves a highly punishing environment that calls for extreme durability, it might be time to learn how to get started with SLM 3D printing. It is, however, generally a good idea to consult an expert before making the leap.
Once you’ve figured out how to get started with a 3D printing process, you’ll have to pick which materials suit your business goals best. More often than not, the biggest reason business owners start incorporating 3D printing into their business is material versatility. That is to say that 3D metal printing can accommodate a range of incredibly durable materials like titanium, which would otherwise have been massive time-sinks to mold conventionally. Combine this with the advent of just-in-time distribution of metal powders, and you get streamlined design timelines from blueprinting to prototyping.
- Aluminum Alloys: Low material density, conductivity, and heat management properties make aluminum alloys suitable for SLM. They are commonly used in labs and prototypes due to their lightweight nature.
- Titanium Alloys: As you might expect, titanium can take a beating. The high corrosion resistance and durability of titanium alloy makes it suitable for a range of heavy-weight applications. Given its low thermal expansion, it’s been used in aerospace manufacturing as well.
- Precious Metals: This one is more of a niche that a few businesses get into. Precious metals refers to select metals like silver, gold or palladium that can be used mainly for jewelry making purposes.
Take The Leap
With a solid grasp on how getting started with 3D printing can benefit your business and the various avenues available to get involved, the best time to begin is today. Distributors like KBM are making it easy for both small and big organizations to get into additive manufacturing with accessible deliveries. Explore our selection of metal powders to stock up for your 3D metal printing!