Digital Metal begins commercial production of its 3D metal binder jet printers, offering unprecedented detail, surface resolution and design possibilities for small components
Digital Metal®, a Höganäs Group company, the world’s leading producer of metal powders, today announced it has initiated commercial production of the industry’s first high precision binder jetting 3D metal printer that can produce smaller and more intricate components than any previous technology. The DM P2500 can be purchased or licensed from Digital Metal and is ideal for serial production and customised parts, opening up the possibility to print what was once impossible.
Digital Metal has produced both bespoke tiny objects and high precision small components at scale using its proprietary binder jetting technology for four years. To date, the company has produced approximately 200,000 pieces for customers in several industries, including aerospace, luxury goods, dental tools and industrial equipment manufacturing. It will continue to offer this production service, while also expanding its business with the commercial sale and licensing of its revolutionary 3D metal printer.
The DM P2500 continuously prints in 42 µm layers at 100 cc/hr without the need for any support structures. It has 2500 cm3 print volume available. This makes it possible to manufacture small objects in high quantities (up to 50,000 parts in one print run), comprising shapes, geometries and internal and external finishes never before achieved. The DM P2500 delivers a resolution of 35 µm and an average surface roughness of Ra 6 µm before additional finishing processes are applied.
For the first time, complex architectures with medical grade smoothness are possible on a small scale, as well as moving parts within other objects, and a gradient of holes in a single print. The process is also adaptable for a variety of materials because the heat treatment (sintering) happens after printing. Powder removed before sintering is reused for subsequent jobs, making it the most sustainable additive manufacturing (AM) technology available today. This results in high yield and low scrap rates, meaning downtime is kept to a minimum, and there is no de-generation of the powder that other AM processes experience.
“Our heritage, knowledge and experience in metal powders combined with the development and evolution of our cutting-edge printer technology has enabled us to succeed where others have failed. With the DM P2500 we are bringing to market a tried and tested 3D metal printer with the capability to produce objects with unparalleled accuracy and surface finish at high volume - from day one we delivered one-off parts in large volumes,” said Ralf Carlström, General Manager, Digital Metal.
“The Digital Metal business has doubled year on year since its inception, however we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of the potential this technology offers for designers and engineers. We’ve seen relatively small (but previously unachievable) changes to the internal structure of components result in a 30% improvement in overall product efficiency, which would have been impossible to produce using conventional methods. As the design and engineering community begin to explore and understand what our highly repeatable and reliable technology enables, we believe we will see huge demand for this technology. By making the printers commercially available we hope to facilitate and fuel that demand.”
The second DM P2500 outside Digital Metal was installed in June 2017 and licensed to Centre Technique des Industries Mécaniques (CETIM), France’s benchmark institute and technological innovation hub for mechanical engineering. The machine started production just two days later and is already showing exceptional consistent results. While the first printer is confidentially licensed to a global leader in fashion design and will see its new serial production items available at the end of this year.
Luxury watch start-up Montfort approached Digital Metal to print the dials for its watches inspired by the Swiss Alps. The binder jetting technique was the only solution that allowed Montfort the creative freedom to make watch dials with a design and finish that resembles the mineral, crystalline structure of rocks.
Additionally, in the U.S., Honeywell Aerospace and Digital Metal are exploring a number of joint 3D printing projects that will merge Honeywell’s expertise in aerospace engineering with Digital Metal’s leadership in additive manufacturing.
“The binder jetting technology Digital Metal uses to print small metal parts has the potential for various applications within the Honeywell Aerospace program,” said Don Godfrey, Engineering Fellow – Additive Manufacturing, Honeywell Aerospace. “We believe this will also be critical to applications in other key areas of the broader aerospace industry.”
“Now it’s time to open the market by allowing other businesses and manufacturers to take advantage of our proprietary technology and know-how,” Carlström continued. From designers that crave more freedom to industries that hoard spare parts that are never used, we want to shake up their thinking for future product design and maintenance. Items can be printed on-demand, in the singular or en masse.”
In addition to the 3D metal binder jet printer, Digital Metal also provides all the ancillary equipment required with each machine, as well as introductory and ongoing training and support to ensure customers are achieving the ultimate productivity and outputs. The company will initially target key industries that have a lot to gain from additive manufacturing of small and complex components, including automotive, dental, healthcare, aerospace and luxury fashion.
Digital Metal is currently in discussions with various partners to help facilitate product distribution and support across the globe. The company plans to exhibit at TCT Show, 26-28th September, Birmingham, UK, and Formnext, Frankfurt, Germany, 4-17th November.
Digital Metal® Capability Comparison
The below table produced by Digital Metal offers an at-a-glance comparison of its technology and alternative manufacturing processes, based on its industry experience. It compares AM processes like SLM (Selective Laser Melting), EBM (Electron Beam Melting), DED (Direct Energy Deposition) and conventional technology like MIM (Metal Injection Moulding) with Digital Metal’s high precision binder jetting. All AM technologies have their pros and cons, every organisation must consider what’s best for their application needs. All AM technologies are advantageous for prototyping or small series production but the greater amount of energy used during melting for higher productivity results in a tradeoff of less intricacy and limited surface resolution, while MIM is only 2D and productive for really small applications. Comparatively Digital Metal offers a unique combination as it provides high precision details, fine surfaces, print tolerances, and high productivity of multiple parts in a single print that be either uniform or customised.