Metal additive manufacturing is now at the forefront of the 3D printing world.
Where once it was FDM 3D printers taking the industry by storm, today it is production-ready machines capable of creating aircraft parts, turbines and electrical components. Plastics are great for prototypes and simple items, but metals have realized the greater promise of additive manufacturing.
For most businesses, however, metal additive manufacturing remains a pipe dream. The cost of a metal 3D printer dwarfs that of an extrusion-based machine, which means only high-turnover companies — think market leaders in the automotive and aerospace sectors — can invest in their own metal AM equipment.
Fortunately, there are alternative routes into the world of metal AM. With an on-demand manufacturing specialist like 3ERP, it is possible to take advantage of metal additive manufacturing without major investment.
It’s time to stop treating 3D printing as a casual prototyping tool: with 3ERP, end-use metal parts are just around the corner.
3ERP, a global rapid prototyping company that provides on-demand 3D printing services with SLM, SLS, FDM and SLA technologies, explains how working with a 3D printing partner offers the simplest and most affordable route into metal AM.
Advantages of Metal AM
Metal additive manufacturing is vastly different to traditional 3D printing processes — both in terms of material and process.
Where extrusion-based machines heat and deposit plastic onto a blank surface before building up the part, metal machines like SLM printers use a laser to fuse metal particles on a moving print bed. The result is an ultra-strong metal part that packs all the physical advantages of metal with the geometrical possibilities afforded by a 3D printer.
It’s this geometrical freedom that has had engineers so excited over the last few years. Since 3D printed parts are created layer by layer (and not by filling molds or removing material from a workpiece), they can be made with complex internal geometries.
For example, the inside of a printed metal part can contain a topologically optimized lattice structure, reducing unnecessary mass while maintaining maximum strength. It’s why aerospace giants like GE and Aerojet Rocketdyne are trusting AM to create critical parts like engine nozzles and lightweight support structures: technologies like CNC machining cannot come close to replicating the intricacy of a metal 3D printer.
But these mechanically capable parts are also surprisingly fast and easy to fabricate. Unlike other manufacturing machinery, metal 3D printers can produce an end-use part in a matter of hours, straight from the digital file, direct to its end use.
The Dilemma for Businesses
As is often the case, a key bottleneck for businesses is the required investment in metal AM machinery. SLM 3D printers generally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which may represent a decade’s budget or more for smaller engineering firms.
Other metal printing technologies — DMLS, Cold Spray, Inkjet, etc. — can come at a similar or greater cost.
For many companies, the investment may well be worth it in the long term, given the specific advantages and sell-on value of 3D printed parts. However, those up-front costs — even when spread out over a payment plan — represent a significant risk. With few long-term guarantees, it may seem unfeasible to make that kind of commitment to an up-and-coming technology.
Given the financial obstacles, many businesses see metal additive manufacturing as a distant possibility — something that could improve their business, but whose cost is simply too restrictive.
But that’s where on-demand manufacturing comes in.
Making the Jump with 3ERP
With an on-demand manufacturing company like 3ERP, businesses can develop and fabricate metal 3D printed parts through a third party, eliminating those gigantic setup costs while reaping the benefits of AM: speed, flexibility and strong, complex metal parts that would be impossible to fabricate with traditional metal forming processes.
By ordering 3D printed metal components via 3ERP, businesses can experiment with metal components, in varying quantities, with low up-front costs. Furthermore, by allowing a team of AM experts to take care of the 3D printing, parts will be made free of defects caused by inexperience. A team of 3D printing specialists will be at your service.
Importantly, a long-distance 3D printing relationship need not be a troublesome one. With global delivery in as little as ten days, 3ERP offers SLM additive manufacturing services with short lead times and at competitive prices, providing parts made from titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, cobalt, nickel and other materials.
Working with a metal 3D printing partner is therefore the simplest, most effective and most affordable route into metal AM. Once your foot is in the door, the possibilities are endless.
Contact 3ERP to find your route into metal additive manufacturing.
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