Apr 13, 2018 | By David

A start-up company based in Montgomery County, Virginia, has recently pioneered a new form of 3D printing technology that has the potential to revolutionize the metal AM field. MELD Manufacturing Corporation is a subsidiary of established tech firm Aeroprobe, and is named after its own groundbreaking 3D printing technique. The patented MELD technology is the first additive manufacturing process that can produce metal parts without any melting taking place. The process uses friction and pressure instead, and this has a number of advantages in terms of accessibility as well as final build quality.

(source: Aeroprobe)

The MELD 3D printing technique, which has been in development for over 10 years, has metal powders and rods as its base material. It makes use of an automatically controlled robotic arm, programmed by a digital 3D model like in other 3D printing techniques. Unlike other metal AM techniques that use high-powered laser beams to melt the metal, this arm uses a combination of extreme pressure and friction to get the metal hot enough to deform into a desired shape, but not hot enough to completely melt. This is similar to FDM 3D printing processes for making plastic parts.

The advantages of this technique are numerous. Existing metal AM processes can produce parts with various defects and faults, due to the melting process involved in SLS and SLM 3D printing technology. Internal pores, anisotropy, lack-of-fusion defects and other problems lead to parts that are imperfect, and an inconvenient trade-off between strength and toughness is something that many metal 3D printing manufacturers have to negotiate.

(source: youtube.com / Aeroprobe)

According to MELD’s Additive Manufacturing Manager Chase Cox, ''when you melt, you introduce weakness and other issues. By taking the material up to a point where it is malleable but not melted, we end up with properties that meet or exceed similar processes and, in some cases, even those of the original material.''

Another benefit of the MELD 3D printing process is that it is significantly more accessible, as well as easier to use and design for. It’s an open-atmosphere process, which means that there is no need for the vacuum chamber that other metal 3D printers incorporate. This chamber is used in order to prevent the molten material reacting with elements in the atmosphere, but it can limit the size of the parts that metal AM manufacturing can produce, as well as increasing the cost. High-powered lasers are also prohibitively expensive for many manufacturers, and the laser-based metal AM processes can be significantly slower than other methods. MELD will expand design possibilities as well as lowering the barrier of entry to metal 3D printing.

(source: Roanoke News)

Now officially launched as a company, MELD Manufacturing Corporation is starting to sell the first model of its MELD metal 3D printer, called the B8. It is also taking orders for custom machines for larger projects, and is offering to sell fabricated parts. The University of Alabama was one of the company’s first customers, receiving a MELD 3D printer back in January to help with its research into the recycling of military equipment into usable parts.

(source: Evensi)

''I was very excited the first time I saw the MELD technology,'' notes Paul Allison, Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama. ''It was and still is obvious that MELD provides a breakthrough in manufacturing technology that overcomes the technical barriers of fusion-based processes. That innovation is why I was eager to purchase a MELD machine and to work with the MELD team to pioneer research for this technology.''

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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Richard wrote at 4/15/2018 2:39:25 PM:

It’s impossible to weld smaller pieces of metal into one solid piece without melting. However the method of getting the melting can vary. Torch, electric arc and laser printing weld by making a little pool of melted metal where the smaller pieces melt into each other, becoming one piece. Traditional blacksmiths didn’t have torches, electric arcs nor lasers. Yet they welded metal. The way they did so was to heat two pieces almost to their melting point, then when those two pieces were hammered together, it caused a small area to melt and fuse the two pieces into one. The sudden pressure of the hammer blows would cause the medal to heat up above the melting point, then melt. There was no pool of molten metal as in modern methods, but there was molten metal nonetheless. The above Meld process sounds like a variation of the blacksmith’s method updated to 3D printing. There’s melting, but it’s a fraction of what’s needed in laser 3D printing. And it’s limited to the contact point between pieces.

Richard wrote at 4/15/2018 2:34:28 PM:

It’s impossible to weld smaller pieces of metal into one solid piece without melting. However the method of getting the melting can vary. Torch, electric arc and laser printing weld by making a little pool of melted metal where the smaller pieces melt into each other, becoming one piece. Traditional blacksmiths didn’t have torches, electric arcs nor lasers. Yet they welded metal. The way they did so was to heat two pieces almost to their melting point, then when those two pieces were hammered together, it caused a small area to melt and fuse the two pieces into one. The sudden pressure of the hammer blows would cause the medal to heat up above the melting point, then melt. There was no pool of molten metal as in modern methods, but there was molten metal nonetheless. The above Meld process sounds like a variation of the blacksmith’s method updated to 3D printing. There’s melting, but it’s a fraction of what’s needed in laser 3D printing. And it’s limited to the contact point between pieces.

Greg Paulsen wrote at 4/14/2018 2:56:32 PM:

So.. fabrisonic or any other cold weld machines that have been around for over a decade don't count?

2robotguy wrote at 4/13/2018 7:12:44 PM:

How do they have a patent on a Friction Stir Welding CNC machine? They must have something very novel about the process, what is the patent number?



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