No matter how you slice it, the spike in industry-wide 3D printing revenues over the past 5 years has been impressive. A close look at that growth, however, reveals something interesting: it’s been disproportionately driven a small handful of vertical markets. Of these select markets, none has been as influential as MedTech. Metal-based additive manufacturing (AM), in particular, has proven to be perfectly suited to meet a number of needs in medical and dental device production.
Overview of Material Jetting in Metal 3D Printing
Material Jetting is relatively new and similar to binder jetting, with one key difference -- instead of a binder being jetted through the printhead, a metallic material is jetted. This material is jetted onto the build tray directly using either a continuous jetting or Drop on Demand (DOD) process. The jetted metal is deposited on the build tray in the cross section of the part for that layer. This process continues as it builds up layer after layer. The resulting part still needs to be sintered in a furnace to achieve final part density. Previously, material jetting was limited to plastics and polymers, but recent advances have seen new companies attempting to commercialize the process for metals. XJet currently shows the most promise for material jetting with its patented NanoParticle Jetting technology and recently shipped its first commercial machine to a customer.
Overview of Directed Energy Deposition in Metal AM
Directed Energy Deposition (DED) is an additive manufacturing process where metal wire or powder is combined with an energy source to deposit material onto a build tray or an existing part directly. Parts chosen for DED are typically large without the need for tight tolerances. DED methods are capable of building very large parts and are popular because of the rapid deposition speed. Because it closely resembles welding, DED is commonly used to repair and maintain existing parts. DED machines usually mount a nozzle on a multi-axis arm, which then deposits the metal feedstock to the surface. When used with 5 or 6 axis machines, the material can be deposited from nearly any angle and is melted upon deposition with a laser or electron beam. This process means DED can be used to build objects very quickly and is only limited in size by the reach of the robotic arm.
The additive part of the name comes from adding layer upon layer to create the part, as opposed to subtractive technologies such as CNC machining which mill and grind away material to reach a final part. How these additive layers are formed and the parts are created is what separates the different additive manufacturing technologies.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), is one of the most exciting manufacturing technologies talked about today. We are now seeing a second modern wave of interest and enthusiasm for 3D printing with advances appearing in news feeds everyday across markets including consumer, industrial, automotive, aerospace, medical, and many more.
As technology improves and processes are refined, metal 3D printing has grown increasingly popular and accessible. But even as price points for 3D printers come down and new applications for additive manufacturing are discovered, challenges remain that prevent many companies from utilizing this innovative technology to its full potential.
3D printing is being utilized in a variety of industries due to its high-quality customization capabilities and on-demand manufacturing, among other key benefits. Out in front among the sectors taking full advantage of additive manufacturing technology is the healthcare industry.
Manufacturers are making headway in mass customization thanks to lean manufacturing, just-in-time inventory, and digital technologies like additive manufacturing.
Customizable consumer products can create production choke points in traditional manufacturing models. Additive manufacturing is one way to “unchoke” production for mass customization.
The medical device market is booming and is expected to reach a value of $543.9 billion by 2020, and an increasing number of those devices are the result of 3D printing.
3D printing’s big advantage is its ability to produce implantable medical devices customized specifically for a patient – more quickly and cost-effectively than in traditional manufacturing methods.
The MPIF Standard 35 for powder metallurgy now includes two aluminum alloys in the 2xxx designation series.
The Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF) released a new materials standard for aluminum alloys, which will become part of their Materials Standards for Metal Injection Molded Parts publication.