Belgian additive manufacturing company Aerosint announced today that it has successfully 3D printed small cubes and a more complex part made from two types of metal. Though the parts are small, the news is big: multi-metal 3D printing is now a very real capability.
The company, understandably excited, proclaimed: “Multi-metal 3D printing is not wishful thinking anymore! On Tuesday we printed small dual-metal cubes. On Wednesday we printed this amazing part. Just imagine what we will be able to accomplish in the next months and years…”
Multi-metal additive manufacturing has been just out of reach for a long time, though its potential has been broadly recognized. Companies like Virgin Orbit have been exploring the technology, though Aerosint has arguably been at the forefront of developing the multi-metal printing capability using powder-based processes.
In early 2018, the Belgian company announced it was developing the first commercial multi-powder SLS 3D printer. At the time, the goal was to develop the technology for use with polymers, though Aerosint already had a view to make its Selective Powder Dispensing technology material agnostic.
Today, Aerosint shows the strides it has made with its multi-metal 3D printing capabilities. The multi-metal test components were printed using an Aconity3D Midi + LPBF 3D printer equipped with Aerosint’s dual-metal recoater. Aconity3D, which partnered with Aerosint early on, designed the machine specifically so Aerosint’s recoater could fit.
The circular test part printed on the combined system, which measures 6.9 mm in height and 55 mm in diameter, is made up of 174 layers of 40 microns each. Crucially, the part is made of two metal materials: 316L from Carpenter Additive and CuCrZr (Copper Chromium Zirconium) from TLS Technik, which was used for the part’s internal channel measuring 1.7 mm. In total, the multi-metal 3D printed part took 5 hours and 40 minutes to manufacture. The simpler test cubes were also printed from a combination of steel and the copper alloy.
“We are very proud of this accomplishment,” said Aerosint. “No other technology is today capable of producing such dual-metal parts. Multi-metal Laser Powder Bed Fusion creates a range of new use cases and applications that we feel excited to explore together with our partners in the future.”
Aerosint tells 3dpbm that it has already identified a few early adopters that are interested in pursuing research on its multi-metal LPBF process to improve the technology. Among the applications that could be most impacted by the ability to print multiple metals in a single part are heat exchangers, rocket nozzles, drill bit inserts, wear-resistant components and cutting-tools.