French online 3D printing service Sculpteo, with offices in Paris and San Francisco, offers on-demand 3D printed individual products, as well as short-run manufacturing, through its user-friendly web interface. The company, founded in 2009, has long been an advocate for metal 3D printing, introducing rhodium materials a few years ago, unveiling its Agile Metal Technology at CES 2017, and taking its Digital Bike, with 70% 3D printed metal parts, on a successful 1000 km road trip in January. This month, Sculpteo announced that another metal 3D printing technology, industrial-grade metal binder jet printing, is now available on its M-Flex metal 3D printer platform.
ExOne, which provides 3D printers, products, and services to industrial customers all around the world, makes the M-Flex production printer; Ohio’s Youngstown State University and precision manufacturing company 3DX industries also count themselves M-Flex 3D printer customers. The easy-to-use 3D printer has a touchscreen interface, an easy access lid, and a build speed of 30-60 seconds per layer.
The 3D printing process offers Sculpteo customers expanded design capabilities, and the M-Flex will be used to produce a wide variety of products, using customer-provided designs. Metal binder jetting technology is a (relatively) low-cost, fast metal 3D printing method, often employed for prototyping and small batch industrial production, as the tech can create complex, highly detailed designs in a short time frame. The process deposits a liquid binding agent on the metal powder material, and the powder is lightly cured between each layer for solidification. Once the print job is finished, the user removes the build box from the M-Flex and cures it in an oven. Finally, the user carefully removes the parts from the box once curing is complete, and uses air blowers and brushes to get rid of the remaining powder.
“Metal binder jetting can create customized, complex and highly intricate objects in a very short amount of time. In many instances, the cost of creating objects using metal binder jetting technology is lower than traditional manufacturing techniques and other metal 3D printing technologies due to the processing speed and ability to print numerous different items within the same job box at the same time,” said Marine Core-Baillais, Sculpteo’s Deputy CEO. “ExOne’s M-Flex machine is an outstanding high capacity platform that promotes creativity and enables freedom of design for product designers and engineers.”
Sculpteo uses ExOne’s 420 stainless steel material, which is infiltrated with bronze for a composite material of 60% stainless steel and 40% bronze; with this material, the M-Flex can also be used to produce decorative and ornamental objects or jewelry, and finished parts will be available with gold or nickel plating. This mixed material is what makes the cost of metal binder jetting technology lower than other metal 3D printing processes. Finishing options include sandblasted/unpolished, raw, or mechanical polishing, which still shows the layers on rounded objects but is much smoother to touch.
Sculpteo’s approximate lead time for products produced using the metal binder jetting process is about 16 days, but adding gold or nickel plating can extend the processing time by, on average, 2 to 3 days.
The maximum build size for Sculpteo’s ExOne M-Flex is 736.6 x 381 x 361.95 mm; however, this is reduced to 177.8 x 177.8 x 177.8 mm for plated options, and 152.4 x 152.4 x 152.4 mm for a polished finish. The technology offers high customization possibilities and fast production, and thanks to the company’s online service, customers from other parts of the world can use metal binder jetting to produce fully functional parts in just weeks. Discuss in the Sculpteo forum at 3DPB.com.