At RAPID + TCT in April, Stratasys introduced its multi-color J735 3D printer; at September’s TCT Show, the company showed off its advanced 3D printed carbon fiber parts. Now, during formnext 2018 this week in Frankfurt, Stratasys is helping to usher in a new era of production-grade metal parts 3D printing. The company is releasing more details on a new additive platform it’s developing for short-run metal applications.
“We note that current approaches to 3D printing metal parts leave a lot to be desired – including slow post-processing, painstakingly intricate support removal, and hours of matching and grinding,” said Rafie Grinvald, the Director of Product Marketing and Management for Stratasys. “Combined with the high cost of AM powders, this means each part is expensive, with a total cost of ownership that is too hard to justify. Our new platform is being designed to transform the current metals additive manufacturing landscape – presenting a viable alternative to typical production methods – and helping customers dramatically reduce the costs of creating reliable, consistent production-grade, metal parts for short-run applications.”
Developed internally over the last several years and unveiled earlier in 2018, this platform is based on the company’s innovative Layered Powder Metallurgy (LPM) technology, which was specifically designed to make it easier, faster, and more cost-effective to produce metal parts for low-to-mid volumes.
Stratasys intends for its new advanced platform, which combines short-run metal parts production with the value of 3D printing, to “disrupt conventional manufacturing approaches” and use standard Powder Metallurgy (PM) alloys, with their controlled shrinkage, fast throughput, and high accuracy, to drive cost savings and make 3D printing more efficient.
The LPM platform’s three-step 3D printing process combines commonly-used powder metallurgy with the company’s own PolyJet 3D printing. This process consists of using proprietary thermal ink to print boundaries, and is followed by powder dispensing and spreading, and finally compacting the layer of powder for high density, controllable shrinkage.
Stratasys’ new system, which is ideal for use in markets like aerospace, defense, and automotive, works to address the 3D printing needs of customers in need of small-batch manufacturing during times of product ramp-up and end-of-life, customized, lightweight, complex parts, and pilot-series parts production. Once it’s complete, the platform will offer very high part quality and easily implemented post-processing, and should also be, as Stratasys puts it, “economically competitive vis-à-vis cost-per-part and throughput.”
Currently, the company is in closed-loop feedback discussions about its new 3D printing metals platform with OEMs and Tier-1s. While product specs and launch timelines for the LPM-based platform are not available just yet, Stratasys will be discussing its new solution, and demonstrating production parts, at formnext this weeky. At its booth G40 in Hall 3.1, the company will be providing detailed customer use-cases, exclusive hands-on demonstrations, and presentations.
To see the LPM 3D printing process for yourself, take a look at the video below:
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