Oct 13, 2017 | By Benedict

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM (Fraunhofer IFAM) has developed a metallic FDM/FFF 3D printing process. The two-step process involves both extrusion and sintering.

3D printed impeller made using a new metalic FDM 3D printing process

Although there are several exceptions to the rule, technologies used to 3D print plastic materials are generally very different to those used to 3D print metals.

For plastics, the most common type of additive process is fused deposition modeling (FDM) or fused filament fabrication (FFF), which extrudes heated plastic through a nozzle in layers. Light-based techniques like stereolithography (SLA) are also becoming increasingly popular as a way of turning liquid resins into precisely fabricated objects.

In the world of metal additive manufacturing, these machines generally won’t do. Instead, very large and expensive machines are used to direct a laser onto metal powders, as is the case with selective laser melting (SLM). This fuses metal particles together to form a solid object. Again, this is a layer-by-layer process which allows a part to be made fully 3D instead of flat.

It’s always exciting when somebody tries to rip up the rulebook and try something different, which is what Fraunhofer IFAM is doing with its new metallic FDM 3D printing process.

Although you can’t heat up most metals to melting point using an FDM 3D printer, you can try other ways to make metals printable—by mixing them with plastics, for example. In certain composites, a metal can become FDM printable without having to melt at all.

Filament-mixing techniques like this aren't going to produce a component as strong as something made on an SLM printer, but are still very exciting for those looking to add some (figurative and literal) steel to their prints.

Fraunhofer IFAM’s new metal FDM 3D printing process, on the other hand, isn’t just about making a printable mixture containing both metal and plastic. It’s actually a different mechanical process, one that adds a sintering stage to a two-step extrusion process.

3D printed vessel made from 316L

Although we don't have much technical detail about how this process works, researchers at the Dresden-based research organization say their new 3D printing technique provides FDM with a “significantly broader range of applications” by “opening up the material pallet for metallic composites that were previously impossible to use.”

At present, the metallic FDM 3D printing process is being mainly used to produce 316L stainless steel components. However, Fraunhofer IFAM says the process is suitable for all sinterable metals.

What this means is that organizations could eventually start 3D printing metal components in a way that is much more affordable than processes like SLM and DMLS. It could even be used to print parts at scale, with Fraunhofer IFAM suggesting it could produce “low-price production line components of industrial quality.”

To turn the new process into a factory-ready technique even faster, Fraunhofer IFAM is also working on the “AMCC-Line" composite project, gaining skills from other experts in the field.

What's even more important than providing technology for manufacturers, however, is the German research institute taking a big step forward on its own additive manufacturing journey. “With its new metallic fused filament fabrication, Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden has further expanded its competence in the field of additive manufacturing,” the organization said.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Loki wrote at 10/26/2017 4:25:58 PM:

How is this different from what BASF is currently doing?

Loki wrote at 10/26/2017 1:50:24 PM:

How is that different from what BASF is doing?

I.AM.Magic wrote at 10/16/2017 7:54:30 AM:

it's not. there is a lot of interest for the past 6 months in sintering plastic/metal

Loic wrote at 10/13/2017 6:15:02 PM:

How is that any different than what Desktop Metal is currently doing?

Loic wrote at 10/13/2017 6:14:20 PM:

How is that any different than what Desktop Metal is currently doing?

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