July 29, 2015 | By Simon

Although metal-based 3D printing processes may not be as popular as plastic-based 3D printing processes, there is still a lot of interest surrounding what the future holds for metal-based 3D printing for applications ranging from creating aerospace parts to even consumer products. 

But just like plastic-based 3D printing, metal-based 3D printing isn’t without its flaws, too - particularly when it comes to post processing and ensuring that a part is in a finished state.  Among other processes required by the user can include the need to cut the metal part off of the metal substrate that it was printed it on - a process that isn’t necessarily quick and easy.   

Image credit: Mutoh Industries

Now, a group of researchers are claiming that they’ve solved this problem once and for all with the use of substrate release mechanisms for gas metal arc weld metal 3D  printing - and they’re ready to share their results with the 3D printing community.  

The researchers - Amberlee S. Haselhuhn, Bas Wijnen, Gerald C. Anzalone, Paul G. Sanders and Joshua M. Pearce - recently completed their research at the Department of Materials Science & Engineering at Michigan Technological University.

“(Our) study provides an in-depth investigation into low-cost and no-cost substrate release mechanisms that allow gas metal arc weld 3-D printed ER4043 aluminum and ER70S-6 steel parts to be removed from a reusable print substrate with minimal energy,” explain the team in their research paper.  

“Aluminum oxide, boron nitride, and titanium nitride coatings were evaluated as possible substrate release agents for aluminum printing. Additionally, the in situ formation of substrate release agents such as intermetallics and oxides were tested for both aluminum and steel printing.”

To print the metal parts for the study, the team used a Millermatic 140 with an M-100 weld gun to print the steel parts whereas aluminum parts were printed with a Miller Spoolmate 100 weld gun.  In order to print the parts, the weld gun remained stationary while a CNC-controlled 3-axis stage provided the necessary motions for 3D printing the test 3D models.  In order to to achieve high-quality prints with a maximum print diameter approximately of 80 mm, both the welder and printer settings were manually and independently adjusted.  

Print settings, such as printing without shield gas and using alternate weld unit settings for the first layer, were developed to limit weld penetration into the substrate and to encourage in situ formation of release agents such as oxides. Encouraging the formation of aluminum-iron compounds allowed aluminum specimens to be removed from steel substrates with the lowest impact energy.

Using several techniques including variation in cover gas, surface pretreatment and selection of substrates to cause intermetallics, the team was successfully able to knock their finished 3D printed metal parts off of the support substrate using a gentle knock of a hammer.  Once the team had successfully removed the part, they were then able to recycle the substrate into another round of printing.  In order to test the impact needed for removing the 3D printed 1100 aluminum or A36 low carbon steel parts from their bases, the team used a Charpy impact tester.

“These mechanisms allowed the steel and aluminum specimens to be removed from the substrate without the use of cutting tools,” explain the researchers.  

“Low-cost methods, such as the use of aluminum oxide, boron nitride, and titanium nitride coatings, were also found to be effective substrate release agents for aluminum 3-D printing as long as a chemical binder was present in the coating solution.”

Based on their findings, all of the employed substrate release mechanisms minimized weld penetration and, in some instances, formed a brittle phase with the print substrate that allowed the specimens to be removed with minimal impact energy.  Ultimately, the results prove that users don’t need specialized tooling or equipment conducive to distributed manufacturing.  

“These substrate release mechanisms further democratize 3D printer manufacturing, as they are suited for consumers as well as small and medium enterprises,” add the researchers.  

“In addition to reducing the overall costs of producing 3-D metal parts, these substrate release mechanisms also minimized the waste and concomitant environmental impact associated with 3-D metal printing by yielding substrates suitable for reuse.”


Posted in 3D Printing Technology



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive