Massachusetts-based Markforged has announced the release of a new material for its Metal X 3D printing platform: H13 tool steel. The new material will enable Metal X users to 3D print high-strength, temperature resistant parts for robust applications, including metal forming tools, dies and punches; hardened inserts for fixtures; and injection molds with conformal cooling channels.
H13 is a tool steel that, because of its high temperature resistance, is used often in hot work and cold work tooling applications. In other words, the metal maintains its high strength even when subjected to extreme temperatures. H13 is also recognized in the manufacturing industry for its good red hardness, thermal fatigue resistance, high toughness, ductility, abrasion resistance and hardenability.
Markforged has now brought H13 tool steel into the 3D printing arena, enabling its customers to print various types of industrial parts with complex geometries—something that would be impossible or extremely difficult to achieve using subtractive manufacturing processes.
“We designed the Metal X system to change the way things are made, and the launch of H13 is the next step down that path,” commented Jon Reilly, Markforged VP of product. “For manufacturers of high-volume plastic parts this is a game changer, significantly accelerating the speed at which they can bring new products to market.”
Grant Engineering, a San Francisco injection molding service and an early adopter of the Metal X system, has leveraged the Markforged technology to 3D print injection molds from 17-4 stainless steel. With the availability of H13 tool steel, the company says it expects to reduce its iteration time and costs for its injection molds, which are subsequently used to produce injection molded plastic parts for the biotech, high tech and consumer product industries.
“Injection molding is the core of what we do,” said Randy Grant, co-founder and co-owner of Grant Engineering. “Much like the robots and automation we’ve already introduced into our workflow, we see 3D printing—especially the Metal X—as a way to keep us hyper-competitive on cost and turnaround time while still delivering the precision and quality we’re known for. Being able to 3D print H13 should enable a lot of innovation with injection molding, we can’t wait.”
Looking specifically at injection molds, H13 could be used to print molds with integrated conformal cooling channels, which offer more uniform cooling and function to draw heat away from the mold cavity. The ability to produce injection molds of this nature could give manufacturers the ability to reduce part warping, increase throughput and lower operational costs on the whole.
Metal X customers can order H13 tool steel as of today, and Markforged promises that orders will be shipped no later than March 2019. A 1kg spool of the metal material (which is also known as EN 1.2344 and SKD61) is retailing for $229.99.
Markforged made quite an impact on the metal 3D printing market with the release of its low cost Metal X machine. In less than a year, the company has already shipped over 150 Metal X systems to customers who are seeking to leverage the accessible, filament-based metal AM platform.
Prior to the release of H13 tool steel, the only compatible material with the Metal X was 17-4 PH stainless steel. And Markforged plans to release more metal filament for its 3D printing system soon, including A2 and D2 tool steels, stainless steel 316L, Inconel and Titanium.