Why it’s time to focus on metal 3D printing

Louise Davis

Metal 3D printing is set to grow dramatically over the next five years, but it’s not without its challenges. Paul Tickle reports

When it comes to metal 3D printing, the biggest challenge is switching people on to what can be achieved with the technology.

The aerospace, automotive and medical sectors are relatively advanced in their use of metal 3D printing. We now need to expand this across other business sectors.

As more industries recognise the benefits that can be realised with SLM technology, metal 3D printing will become much more commonplace. The time, cost and efficiency saving—as well as the freedom from design constraints—are incredible, but the challenge is convincing people to adopt the technology.

In terms of how metal 3D printing compares to plastic 3D printing, the two processes are very similar. Both technologies require a 3D CAD file that’s subsequently divided into 2D layers by the system software. The part is then produced layer by layer.

With metal printing it’s possible to produce complicated, intricate structures that reduce cost, product weight, and material waste. Structures that cannot be produced using traditional manufacturing methods can only be realised with 3D metal printing.

With the technology developing at such an astounding rate, people need to choose the right solution to suit their current business, but also future-proof that solution so they can develop it over time to meet their changing business needs.

With further realisation of Industry 4.0 and the smart factory, metal 3D printing will see further advancements. The technology is moving at a rapid pace with new materials and techniques being announced almost daily.

It’s now possible to print using a variety of techniques and a variety of metals. A key component in making Industry 4.0 a reality is machines that can produce larger components faster, more flexibly and more precisely than ever before. SLM Solutions is leading the way with larger build envelopes and multi laser technology to produce parts leading to faster build times.

To maximise these benefits, companies are realising the need to understand where to apply the technology along both the supply and value chains. Having an additive manufacturing strategy is no longer just nice to have—it’s now a necessity. Without a doubt, this will be a real game changer.

Paul Tickle is with Laser Lines