Super metal printing

New advances in 3d printing technology mean that we can now print customised shapes with high accuracy and extreme strength. Electron beam melting is as exciting as it sounds: a very high-temperature burst of energy that melts and fuses industrial grade metals into any shape.

This is important news for many industries. Whether you’re designing smart phones or wind turbines, high-strength metals, such as titanium, mean weight reduction and efficient structures, meaning that designs can be made to more demanding specifications.

An advantage of electron beam melting (EBM) that the ratings can be set higher than in more common laser sintering. This results in faster machines that are subsequently more economical in production.

Though relatively common industrial settings, EBM has only just been introduced to the world of 3D printing. New developments including a multi-beam system and highly accurate beams of up to 3000 W mean that a single printer can keep multiple molten baths as material reservoirs going at the same time. The EBM printing process, which takes place at high temperatures in vacuum chambers, can save time by employing these multiple baths.

Tests have resulted in components with very high stress tolerance and with additional material properties which are similar to metals that have been forged. In short: the process makes for extremely strong materials.

Currently, the process only works for titanium and inconel (high-grade nickel-chromium alloys). This suits the medical industry. How would you like to have your own 3D printed skull plate?