ExOne (Nasdaq: XONE) is expanding its collaboration with two companies — Elnik Systems, the global leader in debind and sinter equipment, and DSH Technologies, LLC, a global leader in debind and sinter process consulting — to improve the standardization of sintering for metals 3D printed with binder jetting.
ExOne’s family of metal 3D printers are capable of printing more than six qualified metal powders, including the popular stainless steels 316L, 304L and 17-4PH, into dense, solid parts. A variety of beta metals are also being fast-tracked through the Company’s strict qualification process, such as Inconel 718 and 625. To earn a qualification, a metal must deliver repeatable, desirable performance in both 3D printing and sintering.
The expanded collaboration between ExOne, Elnik, and DSH will focus on improving sintering profiles for metal parts 3D printed on ExOne binder jetting systems. Standard profiles will be based on metal type, as well as part features, including size, mass and other geometric elements. The companies will also co-develop an easy-to-use interface that will automatically load, or allow a user to select, sintering profiles.
“ExOne metal 3D printers already deliver industry-leading density and repeatability, and now we’re working to ensure that the final sintering step is as easy as possible for our customers — a seamless end-to-end process that delivers a quality result,” said John Hartner, ExOne CEO. “We’re proud to work with Elnik Systems, the leaders in debind and sinter equipment and services, on enhancing the quality of our solutions.”
“We are honored to be collaborating with the experienced ExOne team on technology enhancements for metal binder jetting technology,” said Stefan Joens, Elnik President/DSH Vice President. “Elnik’s introduction of all metal partial pressure furnaces has transformed the processing capabilities of the metal injection molding (MIM) industry, and we are excited to bring this technology to the metal AM industry. DSH Technologies has been providing real world solutions focused on customers-specific issues for 20 years.”
Understanding Binder Jetting
Binder jetting is a mature 3D printing process that uses a digital file to quickly inkjet a binder into a bed of powder particles — metal, sand or ceramic — creating a solid part one layer at a time. When printing metals, the final part must be sintered in order to fuse the particles together into a solid object.
Compared to other manufacturing methods, binder jetting is a fast and low-waste method of making precision metal parts and products. What’s more, it offers new design freedoms not previously possible.
While sintering metal powders is a common manufacturing process, and ExOne customers successfully sinter parts today, the design freedom offered by 3D printing is creating new challenges in sintering green metal parts that deliver predictable dimensional tolerances and meet other requirements. The process often involves some trial and error with sacrificial parts. The new collaboration with Elnik aims to standardize and simplify this end-to-end process.