FAME ecosystem learned metal 3D printing hands on

Personnel from FAME member companies is learning about metal 3D printing at Delva Oy in Hämeenlinna. Delva´s CTO Markku Lindqvist is explaining.

To boost success stories enabled by metal 3D printing, members of FAME (Finnish Additive Manufacturing Ecosystem) actively seek information and understanding. Delva hosted metal printing days on its premises in Hämeenlinna.

Success in metal 3D printing does not come simply by starting a printer. A significant part of the positive result is created on the design table. A chance to learn by doing increases the understanding of the new technology and achieve better results. Delva organizes 3D printing days for companies in their facilities in Hämeenlinna, and FAME ecosystem took the chance to gain insight on metal 3D printing.

Cooperation is strength – also in metal printing

AM-specialist Eetu Kivirasi and Fame-members in interaction.

Metal 3D printing covers several different technologies. Powder Bed Fusion technology (PBF) is the most mature technology suitable for the most demanding applications, and it is already a manufacturing technology among conventional ones. Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) is also Delva´s choice.
3D printing with L-PBF, compared to conventional manufacturing, reduces work stages but still includes many things to do. Different tasks in the printing process like adequate nesting of build plates, printer cleaning, demanding handling of powders, not to mention part building in the printer, heat treatment, sawing and multiple post-processing are discovered best by doing.

In 3D printing cooperation and co-development are of outmost importance. There is a great deal to be achieved by joining customers´ profound knowledge of the industry in question and the knowledge and experience as a printing partner bureau of all the possibilities – and restrictions – of metal printing. Understanding each other’s work and possible challenges improves communication and help to find solutions together. Learning happens in interaction.

Support structures

Removing support structures manually.

Support structures have a significant role in metal printing. One basic rule is that the build tends to drop as the angle of an unsupported feature gets below 45 degrees. In so-called support free low angles, where this 45-degree thumb of rule is challenged, and angles of even 13 degrees have been built. That is doable but always requires material-specific developments. A simple solution is to add support structures that help produce the wanted design. Support structures, however, increase the printed material and, this way, cost. In addition, supports need to be removed, depending on the material, either manually or by machining.

It is good to plan the manufacturing process minimising the support structures and considering removing those during the design phase. The necessity is concretised in a new way while removing support manually from a heat-treated 316L part. The experience springs to mind a long time.

The law of conservation of powder

The build is ready.

It is also good to learn that in powder bed fusion, the non-melted powder remains among the build in the building chamber until we vacuum-clean it at the end of the printing process. One of the significant advantages of metal 3D printing is producing lightened, even fully hollow structures. One must keep in mind that the powder stays inside the hollow structure, too, and it is essential to plan how to remove it in advance. It is annoying to use a long time to shake manually powder out of a part, otherwise costing a few euros or even finding out that the powder is stuck inside the structure forever. Applications also exist where powder residuals are critical and need to be excluded.

Economic view to metal 3D-printing

The protective set-up reminds us of the fineness of the powder that exceeds wheat flour. Protection is a must.

Significance of material selection is important to gain maximum benefits. Openness to new materials that metal printing enables is far-reaching. Stick to old holds back the development.

It is essential to have also the economic view: familiarising with the production makes it evident how each new material requires significant investments in powder handling, the powder itself, and printer parameters. Every material also demands material-specific know-how. We need volumes to implement all this. Also, the efficiency of the printing process increases when the material-specific building plates are as tight fulfilled as possible, which brings the customer a cost advantage. Due to the reasons mentioned above, a more profound understanding of various printable materials and their usability benefit all. Trust and encouragement to choose something differing from earlier are bolstered by shared experiences and success stories.

Author and contact for more information

Marja-Leena Mäkinen, COO, Delva

Pictures: Valokuvaus Viirukka