3D Printing with Powdered Metal? That’s DMLS Technology

Seems like 3D printing has become popular in many industries, including the metal parts manufacturing business. DMLS or direct metal laser sintering ,is a form of metal molding technology that uses a 3D printer as part of the molded parts manufacturing process. This process is a significant advance in powder metallurgy (PM) technology in which heat and pressure are used to form the required parts.  The Working Material  The material used in DMLS 3D printing is a fine metal powder with particles in the 20- to 40-micrometer range. The size of particle chosen plays a significant role in metal molding technology in that it tends to limit the amount of detail resolution of finished parts. The smaller the size of the metal particles and the less variation in their size being used in this form of molded parts manufacturing, the more resolution in the finished parts.  There are other issues that limit the resolution of the parts including the size of the laser spot and the height of each layer. Typically, the height of each layer is determined by the size of the metal particles being used. Beyond this, DMLS metal molding technology works much like any other 3D printing process. The working model in the computer is converted into a final product by first dividing the product into a vast number of fine layers. This information is used to print the part, one fine layer at a time.  What Metals Are Used in DMLS? The most common metals used in this form of metal molding technology are aluminum and titanium. A laser built into the 3D printer melts the metal particles into one continuous fine layer based on the CAD design information provided.  Here's how the process works:  
  1. An ultra-thin layer of the metal powder is rolled out and spread using a built-in roller. 
  1. The chamber of the 3D printer is then heated (but not high enough to melt the particles). 
  1. A built-in laser then touches any spot where another layer is called for in the design. The laser melts or sinters the metal particles, which in turn causes the particles to melt together forming the shape of the parts being manufactured. 
The 3D printer will continue adding layers and sintering them together, one ultra-thin layer at a time, until the final product is ready. Using a laser to do this type of work ensures the ability to create very intricate parts from powdered metal.  A Cool-Down Period Is Required  While your newly "printed" parts may look ready to go once the laser has made its last pass, you need to give both the part and the 3D printer time to cool down. Once the part is cool, you can remove it from the powder bed and remove any structural supports added to ensure your part maintains the proper shape during manufacture and cooling.  If you are interested in learning more about using a 3D printer to manufacture molded parts, contact Additive Manufacturing at (877) 238-7907 or submit your questions via our online form. Simply fill out the form and submit your 3D files. From this we will be able to provide you with a personalized quote.