There are a couple of reasons metal 3D printing hasn't caught on. The way it was hyped a few years back and we're going to talk about that a little bit. Metal 3D printing has gained a lot of hype. So much hype that I cannot go into a meeting where we talk about FMD 3D printing, mass production, and 3D printer farms without somebody asking “Are you ever going to do metal?” and the answer is at this moment no.
We really don't anticipate doing metal but there's a reason for this. Metal 3D printing still has a very large technological hurdle and the problem is it is not necessarily an engineering technological hurdle. It's almost a scientific-technological hurdle. The difference between those is an engineering hurdle you can see and you can say okay if we work at that here's kind of a solution we'll figure it out there's a pathway to it. a scientific-technological hurdle is we have got to figure out how to do fusion. There's some fundamental piece of science that isn't figured out or so complex that it doesn't really work.
With metal printing whether of all the processes that exist ultimately what they always come down to is you have metal powder suspended in a resin a binder you then print out the part which is then a green part which is just a glued together metal powder you then take that glued together metal powder and you either D bind it you get rid of the resin out of it and then it holds its shape and then you put that into a centering oven. The centering oven melts all the particles of metal together. You eventually end up with what is essentially a cast metal part that could either be machined down a little bit more or something along those lines. Here is the problem the first part of the process the binder jetting or the bound powder that's fine that works great that's very well proven in fact we print parts like that very often the D binding is also not a problem the binding and removing that binding material is very easy heck you can put it into the center and just have it burn off. The problem is in the centering of it. Here is the thing in order to center apart reliably you have to know every single detail about that part and that part needs to be exposed in an oven to the perfect amount of heat but not too much.
If you have something like a dumbbell or a kettlebell that you see at the gym it has a handle on top of the ball of metal on the bottom if you are making a part like that in a centering oven you run into a problem of the inconsistency in the geometry itself to where the handle is going to heat up and bind much more quickly than the big old mass of metal down at the bottom. You have to design for the centering process so that the whole thing can be baked at a regular level. Another analogy to this is cooking cookies if you have a bunch of small cookies they will all bake in 15 minutes but then if some kid comes along and puts a little dollop of dough on your dish now you have to bake it for a half hour to get all the stuff cooked and bound together. the baking of metal parts is causing a lot of problems because the rules change with each new part. If you're doing watch faces you can load up a thousand watch faces and figure out what is the formula and the recipe for baking those watch faces a thousand at a time inside of that oven but then if you take it down to 500 well the rules of making then change or if you change to a different watch face or a different type of part then the rules of cooking change again and this is the problem that metal 3d printing has had. The science of what is the correct way to bake something comes down to art like a lot of 3D printing. The guys eyeball it and they're like ah it's not quite done cooking yet we got to cook that for a little bit longer. There's not enough intelligence or enough science available to really quantify every possible variation that 3D printing can create and what has happened is that for companies that are pursuing mass production of 3D printed parts they work fine and they can do it but the problem is they are not very flexible because they're able to do a thousand watch faces but you can only run a thousand watch faces at a time. That's how the line is set up you print them over here you do bind them and then you bake them and that oven is set up for a thousand watch faces at a time and nothing else. If you ever change what you're making the change might be a bit easier than doing a new cast of new bowls and that kind of thing. It is a big change because you have to recreate a new recipe for the new part and this is what's slowing down metal 3D printing adoption.
The current process of metal 3D printing works fine at a smaller scale for shops and even hobbyists. It's not that big of a deal because again you can eyeball. It's part of the gig machine in itself and sometimes has some creative and artistic flair to it. It's not necessarily a hard science, but for a process to reach mass production, it has to be hard science. If it wants to hit the goal of 3D printing which is high flexibility then it really has to know the science. Metal just isn't there yet and it's a fundamental problem that the industry has to solve before it's really scalable and to replace molding or casting at a large scale. because it has no more flexibility. The 3D printed metal machines for mass production are essentially large metal injection molding machines so unless you're making a part with a unique geometry that requires printing to create that geometry there are very few benefits to it over regular casting. We keep an eye on it and we're really excited about what everybody is doing with metal but it is just still too early and it has this fundamental problem of how to cook a part and do it flexibly and reliably that just hasn't been flushed out yet.
That's kind of the problem with metal 3D printing. Comment down below if there are other components of 3D printing or other parts of the industry that you want to talk about and we'll try to get them answered.
This is a Yuri Gagarin bust. This model was downloaded from Thingiverse, I believe. You will notice that he is supported in certain areas. He has a lot of detail right there but overall the model should be fairly easy. But if you look at the back right here, there is error, there is a separation between the model and his helmet or between the neck and his helmet. Now normally if you were looking at that you would say “oh the printer jammed for a moment because a spool hung or something like that and it lost connection” that would be true, except the other half looks like this. That is a perfect print right there. The thing that actually happened right here when you see a perfect print and then a messed up component of it somewhere, This is actually a fault in the 3D model itself. The mesh of the STL was messed up in some kind of way, had some giant hole in it in how the head and the body were pressed together so the head just printed separately it was a separate part from the actual body itself. You can tell that because this is a perfect print and that's all nasty. If that's the issue you need to look at your STL clean it up close any holes and some general cleaning on the file.
Hope this helped and let us know if you have any questions related to 3D printer problems.
Happy 3D printing!
Here at Slant 3D, we have a lot of people come to us with outdoor parts so we're going to talk about the solutions of making those pieces around UV resistance.
Not a lot of people know this but most plastics degrade when exposed to sunlight UV radiation, which is what gives you the sunburn, can cause plastics to fade and degrade and then brittle over time. If you have an application that you want to mount on the side of a telephone pole for five or ten years generally isn't the best thing.
Here's the thing, most plastics are actually quite resistant to UV aside from discoloration. ABS and Pet-g are materials that are resistant. They're not fully resistant but they're pretty resistant to UV. That's why you see plastic bottles alongside the road forever but materials like PLA and other sorts of bioplastics like that are not UV resistant. They will fade very quickly but they will hold up outdoors. People overrate the amount of degradation that can occur with plastics. They are all plastics and they all have a half-life of a thousand years so you can place them outdoors and they will last a very long time. It kind of depends on what type of outdoors but it's okay. As far as UV resistance the materials that are UV rated are materials like ASA, TPU, and some nylons though they're also not great because they do fade very quickly, again ABS is also a very good one.
Here's the thing, all those materials are fine and they work great but in mass production, they're not very good materials. ASA is a highly temperamental material to work with so it's very expensive to mass-produce parts with that. FDM is kind of in a similar vein even though it's a cheaper cost of material and then the other ones like nylon are much more affordable than ABS or ASA to produce with but again you have that fading that comes with it. There is PET-G which is very often used for outdoor applications because it has that durability but there is another solution to this that many people overlook.
The features of the raw material are not necessarily what has to be done used to get a UV-resistant part. In the dashboard of your car, many of the parts within your car are not UV resistant and yet for some reason, they hold their color and last for the 20 years of a lifetime of a car. The reason for that is that auto manufacturing actually uses UV-resistant coatings which are transparent. They protect the underlying material from UV radiation and this is literally a rattle-can run across the part. Generally, if we have a client that is seeking high UV resistance we will try to get them into those UV-resistant materials potentially but depending on the cost and parameters of the project it can be much easier to just print the part in PET-G or PLA even and just coat it with a UV resistant coat and that will give it the resistance that it needs to survive the sunlight. That's the solution for kind of doing mass production with UV you have a lot of materials that are UV resistant and most plastic is able to hold up to the sun for quite a few years but if you want that really high engineering grade UV resistance there are particular materials that have that but then you can also just paint it with a UV resistant coat.
Let me know what you think down in the comments and let us know of any other topics that you would like to hear about how to manufacture particular types of products with 3D printer farms. Have a great day everybody!