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Metal Fabrication is Heating Up

May 27, 2007

Filed under: additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:32

Making parts additively from powder metal is taking off. Morris Technologies of Cincinnati, Ohio is now running six EOSINT M machines from EOS of Germany. The machines produce solid metal parts by melting powder with a laser, layer by layer. To date, the company has produced an estimated 8,000 parts. More than 95% of them are used in prototypes and final products, while less than 5% are used as inserts for tooling. Morris is running DirectMetal 20 (a proprietary bronze-based metal), 17-4 stainless steel, and cobalt-chrome.

Arcam and its customers are also making good progress. Arcam’s Electron Beam Melting (EBM) produces parts in titanium alloy and cobalt-chrome using an electron beam instead of a laser to melt layers of powder. The company sold 15 EBM systems last year, compared to six the year before. Magnus Rene, CEO of Sweden-based Arcam, said that its customers are using the process extensively for part manufacturing. About 30% of the parts are used for custom and short run production, while 50% are used for mainstream manufacturing.

In the future, expect to see a growing number of metal parts from additive fabrication, especially ones that are relatively small and complex in shape. Most will be parts that would normally be produced by casting or CNC machining, or ones that would be impossible to build any other way.