Additive manufacturing [three-dimensional (3D) printing] methodologies for high–melting point metallic materials are being used in the advanced aerospace and biomedical sectors to fabricate high-value and geometrically complex parts in moderate production volumes. One barrier to more widespread applications is the gaps in the understanding of the processes that occur during the layer-by-layer buildup by beam heating and melting of powder or wire layers. For example, the absorption of energy in powder layers that are only a few particles thick is poorly understood. On page 660 of this issue, Khairallah et al. (1) used in situ x-ray synchrotron observations of powder dynamics coupled to thermal and hydrodynamic flow modeling to study energy absorption at the scale of powder particles. The presence of the powder, relative to a flat plate without powder, improves absorptivity at low laser power, but as power approaches 200 W, the details of the powder become far less important.
When you think about 3-D printing, chances are you think of little plastic doodads created by desktop devices like those made by MakerBot. Computing and printer giant HP wants you to think about metal. Today the company announced the Metal Jet printer, an industrial-scale 3-D printer that builds items not of plastic but of steel. HP is trying to change that. In 2016, it launched its Jet Fusion plastic 3-D printer, designed for mass production rather than one-off printing.
Just a few years after launching its Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer, HP is ready to get into the world of 3D metal printing with Metal Jet, a new commercial platform. While the consumer buzz around 3D printing seems to be cooling off, it's still a useful technology for large scale manufacturing -- especially when it comes to metallic components. The usual benefits of 3D printing still apply: It can be both significantly faster and cheaper than traditional methods. According to HP, Metal Jet is a "voxel-level binder jetting technology" that's up to 50 times more productive than existing 3D printing solutions. It also features four times the nozzle redundancy and double the printbars of the competition.
A couple of years ago it was hotly tipped to revolutionize manufacturing, since you could have a whole factory in your home! Except, really, it wouldn't, because spending hundreds, or thousands, of dollars on a box to make cute plastic doodads wasn't really what most folks wanted. But, a few years down the line, and while having a 3D printer at home is still reasonably unnecessary, that may change, and soon. Formlabs, for instance, has turned up at CES touting an experimental resin that can enable people to create ceramic objects with regular 3D printing. Ceramic particles are suspended inside the resin, which prints out just as the plastic currently used for additive manufacturing.
Seeking to transform the $12 trillion manufacturing market, HP said Thursday that it aims to start selling a 3D metal printing platform in 2018. HP has developed a "novel 3D metal approach," Stephen Nigro, president of HP's 3DP business, said at the HP Securities Analyst Meeting in Palo Alto, calling it "a major step for HP 3D printing aspiration." While 3D metal printing is now available for more specialized, high-value products, Nigro said HP's innovations "will transform [3D metal printing] into more mainstream, high-volume production." Nigro also told analysts that HP in 2018 intends to bring to market full color 3D printing. HP, he said, will be the only 3D printing company on the market offering "mechanically robust and fully functional full-color parts."