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Rapid prototyping machine makes parts with solid metal

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posted on Mar, 4 2006 @ 08:53 PM
Up until now, Fablabs and Rapid-prototyping machines have been held back by their inability to fabricate parts out of pure metal. This barrier has now been abolished by a new product, that has just been introduced to the market - the ARCAM EBM S400. Previously all these fabs could "print" out, was acrylic, plastic and soft metallic parts.
The EBM process is ideal for applications where high strength or high temperatures are required. Medical product manufacturers can benefit from the parts' high flexural strength for bone implants requiring cycle life exceeding 10 million cycles (or movements). Automobile makers can build strong parts for high temperature testing, including under-the-hood applications. Aerospace engineers will be interested in the combination of a high strength yet light weight titanium part. And because the EBM process produces a homogenous solid, parts can be flight-certified.


"The high speed electron beam system is the next generation of additive fabrication technology for rapid manufacturing of titanium parts," says Crump. "The machine creates parts comparable to wrought titanium and better than cast titanium, with a 95 percent powder recovery yield, which is unheard of in our industry."

Two variations of titanium "six four" alloy are available for the EBM S400: Ti6AL4V and Ti6AL4V ELI. Titanium parts created on the system are accurate near-net shape and are HIP heat treatable. The system builds parts up to approximately 8 x 8 x 7 in. (200 x 200 x 180 mm), with a layer thickness range of 0.002 to 0.008 in. (0.05 - 0.2 mm).

The previous version of this technology worked via a process know as additive-fabrication, which builds parts in layers following a tool path defined by a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file.

This new technology works by shooting an electron beam, rather then a laser beam, onto a layer of metal powder, like Titanium. The beam melts the Titanium dust in fine paths, forming the required shape. The electron beam itself is 95 % efficeint, 5 to 10 times more efficient then a laser, because of this high efficiency, the speed of fabrication is sped up by 3 to 5 times over more conventional methods, uses only seven kW of power, and since it's done in a High Vacuum, the imperfections in the parts caused by oxidation are completely eliminated.


posted on Mar, 4 2006 @ 09:13 PM
This is very significant. The next logical step is the integration of the two technologies. Completely functional complex devices could be created by a single machine. There would of course be limitations such as the creation of glass objects or detailed electrical circuitry, but those too could eventually be overcome.

posted on Mar, 4 2006 @ 09:14 PM
You just got my vote.

We have the CAD driven 3D printer that builds our prototypes parts in layers of plastic. Its cool, but it takes forever. And they are just plastic prototypes afterall.

So even if you only take the increased speed of this the machine into consideration, it has a very bright future, because rapid prototyping is key to holding the lead in most industrys.

The other implications of this "3D printer" are almost mindboggling if its sales claims are accurate.

posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 01:30 AM
THis is quite impressive. I've seen the 3-D printers that work on plastic, and for those ones to make a decent quality prototype, it takes something like 2 days to make a hand-sized part. To have something like this, where we can use titanium instead of plastic, AND build prototypes much faster, is simply awesome.

I notice, however, that there is no mention of price for the machine. The price of the raw materials is essentially the prototype's weight in titanium, plus the electricity to run it, and should be reasonably economical. Even if this machine is priced similarly to the current plastic-using models, this is a remarkable leap forward.

Someone please buy me one of these for my birthday next Saturday...

posted on Mar, 5 2006 @ 01:11 PM
DD the price isnt listed because it is a press release. The actual printer isnt available until mid March at the earliest.

I also just caught that the system builds parts up to a maximium 8 x 8 x 7 in. (200 x 200 x 180 mm). So there are still size limitations to overcome, at least in the listed "commercial" model.

Also, if it takes 2 days to make a hand sized part with the plastic, then using their own figures of 3 to 5 times faster, it would still take from 16 to 10 hours to produce one metal prototype. Not great, but still a big leap.

This tech is going to get very interesting in the near future I think.

posted on Mar, 6 2006 @ 11:48 PM
How do you guys see this working in concert with a Fablab?

[edit on 6-3-2006 by sardion2000]

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