While FDM and SLA 3D printing promises to change the rapid prototyping, design, and DIY markets for the better, it’s the 3D printing of metal which could have the most staggering implications for the manufacturing sector. The ability to print intricate, custom designs, which oftentimes are stronger and more reliable than their cast counterparts, will eventually make technologies such as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) a no-brainer for many industries.
Because the typical prices of such technology many companies shy away from the technology or at least put their additive manufacturing ambitions on hold. This was the case with one of China’s largest state-owned shipbuilding conglomerates, China Shipbuilding Corporation (CSIC), which last August, via their 705th Research Institute, launched a program to create their own DMLS machines. The company certainly had their work cut out for them as they had to figure out how to use a laser to sinter metal powders at very impressive accuracy levels. In doing so they would be able to rely solely on their own in-house technology to fabricate components for future ships as well as resell the machines and the technology to other companies both within China and abroad.
The 705th Research Institute assigned the project to a group they called the U3 Team based in Kunming, China’s southern Yunnan province. The team was tasked with researching and developing a DMLS machine with attached intellectual property rights.
Here we are a year later and progress has been made. In fact the team has already succeeded in creating their own proprietary DMLS technology, according to the company, and is also selling the machines for around $1.6 million.
Next up for CSIC’s 705th Research Institute will be to continue to expand upon their material capabilities while also expanding their material manufacturing base in the Kunming province. Future plans are also in the works for the establishment of a prototype technology center in China’s Yunnan province. As for when we will begin seeing end-use components integrated into new ships constructed by CSIC, that’s still up in the air–however, the company continues to push forward with a multitude of 3D printing technologies such as FDM as well.
Let’s hear your thoughts on CSIC’s development of a new DMLS process and what you think about the future of the technology within the maritime industry. Discuss in the CSIC 3D Metal Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.