Mar 31, 2017 | By Benedict

Chinese metal 3D printing company Xi'an ZhiRong has launched the ZcompleX 3, China’s first electron beam metal 3D printing system. The company has applied for more than 20 patents relating to the machine.

The ZcompleX 3 electron beam 3D printing system

China’s 3D printing industry is something of a sleeping giant. While Europe and North America currently dominates the global additive manufacturing industry, the wealth and resources of the world’s most populous country suggest that it is only a matter of time before China gets involved with 3D printing in a major way. And if some experts are to believed, that waiting time could actually be very short: International Data Corporation (IDC) has predicted that 3D printing will go mainstream in the Asia-Pacific region by 2018.

But all that speculation doesn’t mean there isn’t a fair amount of 3D printing activity happening in China already. Case in point: Chinese metal 3D printing company Xi'an Zhirong Metal 3D Printing System Co., Ltd. has just released a product called ZcompleX 3, supposedly China’s first ever electron beam metal 3D printing system. The company has described the 3D printer as having a high-voltage power supply, a digital control system, and dedicated software. And to protect its IP for all this new 3D printing technology, ZhiRong has applied for more than 20 patents.

Metal parts 3D printed on the ZcompleX 3

These patents could apply to many parts of the new electron beam 3D printer, but one of its most significant features is its 60KV / 15Kw electron gun (sometimes called an electron emitter), the part of the machine that generates the metal-welding electron beam. The ZompleX 3 gun uses “EBVF3 vector technology” to ensure stability and directional accuracy, and has a long cathode life which the company says should guarantee safe and consistent operation over time.

We know a few other specific details about the ZcompleX 3 3D printer too: according to ZhiRong, the printer uses a uses a Siemens840D motion control system, an adaptive dual-wirefeed mechanism that can be used outdoors, a five-axis print bed that is also vacuum-enclosed, and ZSlice 1.0 slicing software. The print bed is also of a generous size, allowing for the printing of objects up to 1000 x 600 x 500 mm in volume.

More parts 3D printed on the ZcompleX 3

Interestingly, in addition to being China’s first electron beam 3D printer, the ZcompleX 3 is actually a composite system capable of welding and repairing existing metal objects as well as 3D printing new ones. All three of its functions can be carried out by its powerful electron beam, which can process a number of different materials in the form of wire feedstock. These materials include titanium alloy, aluminum alloy, tantalum, niobium, tungsten, 300 series stainless steel, and structural steel.

Similar in function to selective laser melting (SLM), electron beam additive manufacturing is a 3D printing process in which metal wire or powder is welded together by a high-temperature electron beam. The process is less common than SLM and selective laser sintering (SLS), but has been popularized by companies like Chicago-based welding specialist Sciaky.

 

 

 

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