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Predictions 2022: Technical Trends in Metal 3D Printers for Series Production

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As we prepare for 2022 and the upcoming Additive Manufacturing Strategies event, March 1 – 3, has been providing predictions related to the nine verticals at the event. Among them is “Additive Manufacturing for Series Production of Metal Parts”. In a previous article, we noted that more lasers and automation will be a key trend in laser powder bed fusion (LPBF). Also a resurgence in electron beam melting (EBM) providers and utility will drive growth there. Besides these developments, there were a few other trends that experts in the metal 3D printing space noted, as well. Two of particular significance were a renewed attention for directed energy deposition processes and a continuation in the interest in binder jet.

Mike Vasquez, material scientist and consultant at 3Degrees is looking at it very holistically.

“I’m excited about the continued march of the industry towards data and experience-driven results,” Vasquez said. “In 2022, I expect we’ll hear more from the people actually working on improving the materials, processes, and workflow in this space. I think progress in those areas—which are coming from both large manufacturing companies and new entrepreneurs—will be an essential driver for incremental adoption and a shift towards production applications. Also, I’m interested to see how the industry continues to address the ongoing conversation of preparing the next generation of our workforce to be successful at all levels of the additive manufacturing enterprise.”

Training is an incredibly overlooked element that will need to play a much better part in our industry. Mike’s focus on workflow and various developments occurring in concert is bang on. Long-term 3D printing consultant and saver of horses, Andrew Allshorn of 3D-SQUARED is very specific about his trend.

“One of the most interesting technologies I’ve seen in a while is from Meltio. What I’d personally like to see is more hybrid machines, combining metal 3D printing and machining in the same machine. Build software that can look at the geometry and print to a point where it knows that it can still machine the geometry inside and out without issues. Print the next section and do the same until the part is complete, with a perfect surface on the inside and outside of the component. This way, there would be no post-processing.”

I like the idea of software being the key gateway for hybrid machines, while eliminating post-processing would really have a big impact on the economics of AM.

The AMBIT DED toolhead. Image courtesy of Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies.

Jason Jones was a University 3D printing researcher for ten years before he took the plunge into the commercial world with his Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies, a firm that makes innovative nozzles, control units, and entire solutions for metal and polymer AM.

“I predict that the ability to establish the quality of printed metal parts, both inside and out, will be advanced in significant ways,” Jones told us.

Jason here completely echoes Andrew. It’s a simple statement here by Jason, but it has huge implications. Right now, 3D printing is a series of black-box technologies whereby we really don’t know what’s going on in the machine and have little control about properties inside and out. Having this would be a leap forward.

Gerard Garcia Torrents is a data-driven leader at Meltio. Before that, he was at Ultimaker, Shapeways and HP. He told

Christian Lonne, the experienced exec leading binder jetting company Digital Metal says,

“Making more and more materials available for metal binder jetting is obviously good ,but what I really think will benefit the whole technology, and what we are pursuing at Digital Metal, is robust qualification of materials with robust properties, paving the way for high repeatability and true industrial-grade serial production with high yield and material properties.”

Especially given the fact that Digital Metal is actually being used in manufacturing today, making hundreds of thousands of parts for customers, I think that it is significant that Christian wants to focus here on “robust properties” and qualifications and repeatability.

To me, we’re going to have a very exciting year in terms of binder jet and DED technologies. On the one hand we’re going to push into the smaller customers and locations while simultaneously going further in manufacturing.

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