Metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) – also referred to 3D printing – is a revolutionary technology that produces 99.99% dense parts directly from 3D CAD data using the powder bed fusion process known as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). Metal AM is fast, accurate and cost-effective for the production of prototypes as well as series production parts which can be used for testing or as final production components. Parts are manufactured without the financial or time costs required for conventional tooling.
Metal AM is an ‘additive’ technology that works by fusing together very fine layers of metal powder using a focused laser beam. This powder bed fusion process can produce complex geometries which might not have been possible using traditional manufacturing techniques, such as:
- channels through sections
- tubes within tubes
- internal voids
The ‘unsintered’ or loose material is removed and recycled for future use, making it both economical and environmentally friendly.
Parts have to be anchored onto a platform so that they are held in place. The platform also helps dissipate heat and contain stress during production. Support structures are required for most downward facing surfaces (at less than 450 from the build platform) because the powder alone is not sufficient to hold in place the liquid phase created when the laser is scanning the powder. Once the build has finished, our in-house experts remove the support structures and carry out any other post-processing work required.
Finished parts are comparable to a good investment cast part and the mechanical properties of finished parts are equivalent to those of a cast or machined component. The process is not restrictive in its application and the components produced can be used in place of almost any conventionally manufactured part. The advantage of the process is that the more complex or feature rich the component, the more economical the process becomes.
Watch our metal AM video to be taken through the process step by step:
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Metal AM Materials
We produce metal AM parts in a variety of alloys carefully selected for the industry sectors we support.
Our materials offer a variety of benefits, depending upon the intended application of the parts. Some give durability and rigidity, while others offer a lightweight solution without compromising on strength or structural performance.
We actively seek to implement new materials in response to customer and industry demands.
Further information is in our Metal AM Material specifications section.
Metal AM Machines
Our suite of 11 metal AM machines offer reliability, repeatability and consistent parts with excellent detail resolution and quality.
In our metal workshop we have a range of equipment including an in-house DMC 835V Vertical Machining Centre providing us with the ability to remove the supports from the metal components once they have been built, using accurate CNC machining methods.
Further information is in our Metal AM Machine specifications section.
Metal AM Finishes
To complement our metal AM machines we have an excellent in-house workshop. Here, our skilled engineers post-process the components, providing the surface finish and additional features our customers require. Through our select supplier network we maintain access to any additional work our customers need, such as some materials treatments, coatings and independent measurement verification.