In-House Metal Additive Manufacturing Now Within Reach for More Canadian Companies

Story by Karen Majerly on February 9, 2018

Coming soon to Canadian manufacturers of all sizes, the first affordable 3D printer that can safely produce metal parts right in the office or on the shop floor. At the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show in September 2017, Canada’s Javelin Technologies announced it will add Desktop Metal 3D printing systems to its additive manufacturing offerings. The office-friendly Studio System is safer and up to 10 times less expensive than current laser-based metal printers.

Metal 3D Printing Design Metal Studio System

The office-friendly Desktop Metal Studio System is a three-part solution (printer, debinder, and furnace) that automates metal 3D printing.

To date, companies serious about 3D printing in metal required an explosion-proof room, large outdoor argon gas tanks, respirators, special power requirements, and specialized operators. The printer, plus the required post-processing equipment and facility improvements, usually required an investment beyond seven figures.

Ted Lee is co-managing director for Javelin Technologies, a company known for its expertise in SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software and additive manufacturing solutions. He says Canadian manufacturers regularly ask about printing in metal.

“Our customers have been waiting for this. They need it, but they’ve never been able to bring it in-house,” says Lee. “With the Studio System, all they need is power and an internet connection. This will transform the way they make things.”

Metal 3D Printing Systems for two different applications

In 2017, Desktop Metal introduced two new metal 3D printing systems, covering the production life cycle—from prototyping to mass production. The Studio System is designed for rapid prototyping and low volume production. It can be pre-ordered and will be available to Canadian customers starting in summer 2018. The Production System is the first metal 3D printing system for mass production of high-resolution metal parts, delivering the speed, accuracy, and per-part cost needed to compete with traditional manufacturing. It will be available in 2019.

The Studio printer shapes parts layer by layer by heating and extruding bound metal rods, similar to a plastic fused deposition modeling printer. The part is then placed in the debinder, where the primary binder is removed. Next, it moves to the furnace, which is cloud-connected, so it can have temperature profiles that are tuned to each build and material used. It uniformly heats parts to just below their melting point, removing the binder and fusing metal particles to form near-netshape parts with densities up to a range of 96 to 99.8 per cent.

The Studio System supports a variety of alloys, including stainless steels, copper, and super-alloys.

Sintering a Part

As the part is heated to temperatures near melting, remaining binder is removed and metal particles fuse together, causing the part to densify up to 96 to 99.8 per cent.

Tool and die shop improves efficiency

Built-Rite Tool & Die, Inc., based in Massachusetts, is one of a handful of pioneer companies that have partnered with Desktop Metal to be the first users of the Studio System. The company designs and builds precision moulds for injection, compression, transfer, and liquid silicone rubber.

Built-Rite is using the Desktop Metal Studio System to print metal inserts in metal moulds. The company 3D prints the hardened cavity or the inserts, and either can be designed to take advantage of conformal cooling lines that follow the geometry of the part. General Manager Ron Caron says having access to 3D printing in metal allows his team to move quickly and meet demand.

“We can move to market quicker. I can print metal inserts, in a rough state, overnight,” says Caron. “I don’t have to order steel, and have it cut and shipped. I don’t have to send parts out for heat treating. What used to take two weeks, using outside vendors, now takes a couple of days.”

Metal additive manufacturing was previously not affordable for a small shop like Built-Rite. Now, Caron says he envisions a future in which several machines are running all day long.

“We can build capacity and diversify,” he adds. “We can capture more business, especially in prototyping. We couldn’t compete on turnaround time before.”

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