“There is so much innovation going on in 3D metal
printing right now. It’s almost difficult to keep up with,”
explains Andy Snow, Senior Vice President at EOS North
America. “Balancing systems, materials, and process is
the biggest quality factor in today’s additive manufacturing
With new innovations in metal additive manufacturing
(AM) technology, it is important to carefully evaluate the
pros and cons of each. For example, direct metal laser
sintering (DMLS), selective laser melting (SLM), and
electron beam melting (EBM) are among the powder bed
fusion forms of metal 3D printing. These techniques use
either a laser or electron beam to melt and fuse powdered
metals such as aluminum or stainless steel powder into
a solid, finished product. Other materials used in powder
fusion processes include Inconel, a variety of nickel-based
alloys, and reactive alloys such as titanium.
“There are other 3D metal printing technologies such
as binder jetting technology. This AM process involves
the layering of a powder bed of material and fusion of the
material together with a binder, creating what is referred
to as a ‘green’ part,” explains Snow. “This part then can
be transferred into a secondary process, like a nitrogen
furnace, allowing an infiltration by a capillary effect to fill the
voids and burn off the binder.”
Although binder jetting technology requires a lot of post
processing, it can do things that powder bed fusion cannot.
For example, Höganäs’ Digital Metal subsidiary can create
microscopic details and some of the thinnest walls possible
with its binder jetting technology and fine metal powder.
In addition, the spreading speeds for binder jetting are
significantly faster than other forms of metal AM, thereby
allowing for the creation of large parts with a more cost-effective price tag. Ultimately, the type of printer and
technology used will depend upon the application.
Industries & Applications
The aerospace industry was a primary early adopter of
metal AM, and it comes as no surprise that it still is one
of the largest users of metal 3D printing to this day. GE
Aviation, Avio Aero, MTU Aero Engines, and a number of
gas turbine manufacturers have adopted 3D printing for
“Fuel nozzles are just one application. There are
hundreds of other applications that qualify for metal additive
manufacturing technology. And I would expect that huge
growth will come as these new applications get rolled out
as flight certified hardware,” explains Snow.
Perhaps the second largest industry adopting metal AM
is the medical sector. Patient-specific instruments and
implants are currently trending in surgical and other medical
“After a CT scan or MRI, doctors can extract data, create
a 3D file, and then make a knee or hip implant,” says Snow.
“This process can match your specific body geometry – so
this is a big change in the medical mindset.”
These industries will further benefit from metal 3D printing
with the increase of laser development. However, finished
part quality often comes as a trade-off with speed. For
example, if the user decides to grow a geometry at 10
microns, the surface quality is typically a lot better than if it
were printed at 40 microns.
“The subtractive technology of traditional manufacturing
that exists in the world today, such as wire EDMs, grindings,
The 3D printer market is rapidly transforming, and nowhere is this more evident than in the metal 3D
printing segment. Competition among the
largest market players is one of the major
reasons new technologies are arising at
such breakneck speeds.
By Kaylie Duffy, Associate Editor
A cobalt chrome aerospace component made
with metal additive manufacturing (DMLS) in
an EOS system. Image credit: EOS.