Feb 12, 2016 | By Kira

What is the future of metal additive manufacturing? Currently one of the fastest growing segments within the industrial 3D printing market, metal 3D printing provides major advantages in the fields of aerospace, defense, automobile, medical, alternative energy and more. As such, we have seen a slew of advancements in metal-based 3D printing technology, from enhanced metal powders to new metal 3D printers.

Looking to what the future has in store, Jack Beuth, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering, has predicted what he thinks will be the five key advances in metal additive manufacturing over the next five years. Curious? Read on to find out:

Metal 3D printed lattice structures made at CMU

1. Process Design: The first key trend in metal additive manufacturing has to do with the process itself, rather than the finished 3D printed product. “Users will be able to design the additive manufacturing process as they design the geometry of a part; therefore, the additive manufacturing process variables can be optimized based on the part geometry and specifications,” said Beuth.

Beuth’s Additive Manufacturing Lab has in fact developed Process Mapping Methods “for representing AM process outcomes such as melt pool geometry, microstructure and susceptibility to flaw formation in terms of primary AM," which he explains in the video below:

2. Monitoring and Control: The second advancement has to do with advanced sensors. According to Beuth, current metal 3D printing processes are not being significantly monitored or controlled, however in the near-future, users will have full knowledge of what is going on thanks to more advanced sensors and monitoring software, and therefore a better understanding for how to control the final output.

3. Material Microstructure: By manipulating the additive manufacturing process while a part is being built, researchers will be able to control the material microstructure and properties of 3D printed parts, and even vary the microstructures in different locations of a single 3D printed part.

Researchers at ETH Zurich for example have developed a micro-3D printing process for microscopic metal objects.

A GE Engine Bracket and NIST part, 3D printed at CMU

4. Metal 3D printing Powders: Many metal 3D printing powders currently on the market contain a variety of inconsistencies that can lead to defects within the finished, 3D printed part. However, Beuth predicts that a much wider variety of metal 3D printing powders will soon emerge. Already, Equispheres has announced a new line of enhanced metal powders, and Northwestern Engineers have developed a faster and cheaper way to 3D print with rust. The metal 3D printing powder market is expected to reach $639.9M by 2020, so this prediction is definitely on target.

5. Porosity: The last key advancement in metal 3D printing relates to the possibility for users to either eliminate, or explicitly design the internal porosity of a 3D printed metal object. The ability to control for porosity will have a “significant effect on fatigue resistance and build rate,” said Beuth.

In addition to teaching Mechanical Engineering at his Additive Manufacturing Lab, Professor Beuth is Director of the NextManufacturing Center at Carnegie Mellon. The NextManufacturing Center is a leading research centre for additive manufacturing, and its researchers are current working on projects closely related to each of the five advancements discussed above.

Professor Jack Beuth

“NextManufacturing research at Carnegie Mellon will help enable these advances, which will significantly increase build rate and reduce cost, improve properties such as fatigue resistance, allow for customization of the entire process, and, ultimately, increase the widespread adoption of metals additive manufacturing,” said Beuth. “At the Center, we are developing an entirely new approach to metals additive manufacturing – merging data from all parts of the process to create a fully integrated understanding of the technology. This approach will optimize part geometries, material properties, cost and design.”

Previously, Beuth and his colleagues predicted the top 10 applications for metal 3D printing, which included high performance racing car parts, custom dental implants, 3D printed jewelry, custom surgical tools, lightweight jet engine parts, hip and knee replacement parts, and more.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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