3D printing was a massive achievement in the field of technology. It allowed people to make anything they desired simply by designing it digitally and printing it. The only drawback was that the objects printed were made of plastic which was not ideal for many projects. Soon that was also overcome by the development of metal 3d printing technology. Let us understand more about it.
The two types of metal 3D printing
There are two main types of printing technologies. They are SLM, Selective Laser Melting, and DMLS, which is Direct Metal Laser Sintering. The two methods have the same fundamentals; they use a laser to scan and fuse the metal particles, resulting in an object’s formation layer-by-layer. They both also utilize metal available in a granular or powdered form.
The critical difference between the two is the metal that is used. SLM utilizes metal powder particles with the same melting point throughout, whereas the DMLS constitutes metal particles with different melting points. In simpler words, SLM uses a single metal, whereas DMLS uses metal alloys.
How does it work?
Let us now understand how metal 3D printing technologyworks. The basics are the same in both SLM as well as DMLS, which includes:
- A chamber known as the build chamber is filled with an inert gas such as argon. This is done so that the metal powder is minimally oxidized. The room is then heated to the optimum temperature.
- A thin layer of the metal powder is spread across the base. The laser then scans it according to the design fed into the printer and fuses together the metal. This step is repeated continuously until the entire object is created by this layering method. This method ensures that the whole thing is excellent.
- While the above procedure continues, the base, also known as the build platform, moves down with each layer. This gives the printer the appropriate space to keep building the object.
Unlike the 3D printers that use polymers, where you can pick up the finished object, the object in these metal printers is attached to the base using supporting structures of the same metal. Also, the finished product is covered in metal dust which needs to be cleaned once the entire system has cooled to room temperature. The object is then heat-treated to avoid undue stress and then cut from the build platform. The thing is now ready to use or can be subjected to further processing.