“New insights” into metal 3D printing point to stronger components and faster development

2016-07-18 01:53:32

A team from California’s $6 billion lab, The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), has announced research on a major issue “plaguing a common metal 3D printing technique.” The new discovery will be published in the August volume of peer-reviewed journal Acta Materialia and could lead to a faster adoption of 3D printing than previously anticipated.

I asked LLNL and their commercial partners about this important development and the long-term project to advance 3D printing with metal.

Ibo Mathews is a principal investigator at LLNL and co-author of the new research. Mathews completed his PhD inexperimental condensed matter physics at MIT and then spent most of the next decade at famed Bell Labs. He holds several patents, including one for laser-induced gas plasma machining. His most recent work looks at a more widely used 3D printing technology, powder bed fusion (PBF).

Commercial application of PBF based 3D printing comes in several forms. EOS are leading direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) manufacturers, Arcam patented electron beam melting (EBM) which as the name implies, uses an electron gun rather than a laser and SLM Solutions hold patents on their multi-beam selective laser melting (SLM) technology. Stratasys have numerous DMLS machines at their contract manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas.

DMLS type machines are used to create critical components in industries from aerospace to medical implants. Therefore it is certain that LLNL’s findings will be closely scrutinized.