Laser Lines, a well-established UK reseller of 3D printers and materials, has sold the first Xact Metal XM200C machine in the UK to the National Centre for Motorsport Engineering (NCME). The center will use the metal powder-bed fusion machine to help teach its students about metal additive manufacturing, to increase accessibility to the technology for the local motorsport industry and to enable the use of high-end materials.
NCME is based in a £13 million state of the art facility at the University of Bolton and offers cutting-edge, application and practical focussed courses to students that want to become experts in the performance-focused engineering that is needed to work in a Formula 1 team.
“We are incredibly excited to be the first customer of Xact Metal’s versatile machine in the UK,” said Robert Higham, senior lecturer and program leader at NCME. “Our job is to make sure our students are exposed to high-end, Formula 1-level equipment, methods and tools, and this purchase enables us to do just that.
Advancing cutting-edge materials
The new machine from Laser Lines will allow the NCME researcher to support the growing space and aerospace industry in the northwest of England in its journey to reap the benefits of additive design and manufacture. “In addition—Higham said—we intend to work with Scalmalloy, a high-performing aluminum alloy that is of great interest in aerospace, space and motorsport.”
The Xact Metal’s open architecture means it is capable of processing this aluminum alloy developed by APWORKS, but nobody has done it yet. Higham intends to develop the printing parameters so that this lower cost, smaller machine can produce Scalmalloy parts.
Juan Mario Gomez, CEO at Xact Metal, added: “There is nothing we like better than getting the opportunity to work with leading education institutions such as the NCME, as we are dedicated to supporting the next generation of innovative manufacturing solutions powered by metal 3D printing.
“We are based with proximity to Penn State, one of the top-ranked research universities in the USA, so we have seen first-hand the creativity that is unleashed when students have the chance to use metal additive manufacturing for themselves. We can’t wait to see what Robert and his team at the NCME can do with the Xact Metal XM200C, taking its capabilities further into the production of Scalmalloy parts.”
Low-cost metal 3D printing
“The Xact Metal XM200C is a very neat and compact machine. Some of the alternatives can fill a room, and you almost need a degree to be able to run them,” commented Paul Tickle, metals product specialist at Laser Lines, “This model has just the components that it needs and nothing more, producing parts that are exceptional for a much smaller capital investment.
For Laser Lines, the key to Xact Metal’s affordability is the high-speed gantry system that allows simple mirrors to move quickly and consistently above the powder-bed on an X-Y axis, unlike traditional powder-bed fusion machines that use a laser fired at a mirror attached to a galvanometer. “This brings the cost down so you can be up and running for less than £100,000, which is cheaper than a brand new 3-axis CNC machine,” said Tickle. “When you consider the time and money savings that come with additive manufacturing, you can see why the Xact Metal machines are a particularly attractive prospect for SMEs and universities.”