Zecotek Photonics Inc. develops photonics technologies for industrial, healthcare and scientific markets and now a subsidiary working in conjunction with a pair of the company’s partners, Zecotek Display Systems Pte. Ltd., the Institute of Chemical Physics and LT-Pyrkal have announced that they’ve created a “unique manufacturing technology for metal powders to be used within 3D printers.”

Back in July we announced that Zecotek had been working in advanced metal alloy powders, but few details were revealed.  Today we learned that these powders, which use metal hydrides synthesis, promise to open up new applications for the technology, and industries which use it.

metal hydride sinteringThe companies say the technique has “significant advantages over traditional techniques: high productivity, superior quality of synthesized hydride, significantly lower energy consumption, ecological purity and safety of the process.”

“Our new and unique manufacturing technology for metal powders is a significant attachment in the advancement of 3D printing,” said Dr. A.F. Zerrouk, the Chairman, President, and CEO of Zecotek Photonics Inc. “The quest for cheap and available powders of refractory metals has been long and hard, and the 3D industry will value our solution.”

Image 202Laser sintering-based 3D printing has long been a staple of additive manufacturing techniques, and the process uses a laser as the energy source to meld metal powder, binding the material together to create a solid structure.  Although the printers are indeed pricey, they are able to output end-use products, rather than only prototypes, like many other less advanced methods of 3D printing may be best for.

Zecotek says metal powder manufacturing has traditionally required a long series of steps to prepare hydrides for use in printing. Processes like asinitial activation of metal, the deep cleaning of hydrogen and expensive fine metal powders under hydrogenation were all required, and the metal powder developed by Zecotek will not only be compatible with the Zecotek line of 3D printers, but with those of other manufacturers as well.

“Laser sintering-based 3D printing is undoubtedly the technology of the future,” Zerrouk says. “The development of a new generation of hydrogen-containing materials, including those based on refractory metals, nano-modified alloys and certain inter-metallides groups, is key for additive 3D printing technologies.”

metal hydrideThe research work which led to this new powder was spearheaded at the Institute of Chemical Physics of the National Academy of Sciences in Yerevan, Armenia. Zeckotec says the high-performance metal powder alloys have led to powders made from metal hydride compounds.

LT-PYRKAL assembled and tested the first in the line of compact, high-speed 3D printers for Zekotec, which use high-performance metal alloys like those mentioned above, and both companies say the new printers and materials will be used in electronics, aerospace, automotive, mechanical and healthcare applications. They expect and initial prototype of the high speed printers will be available in Q3 of 2015.

Do you think this powder innovation will have a major impact on the manufacturing industry?  Let us know in  the Zecotek metal printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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