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Fast, Cheap, Molten Metal 3D Printing
Posted on November 15th, 2017 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & Applications
If the logistics and cost hurdles of powdered metals has kept you in the evaluation phase of additive manufacturing technology, newly available liquid metal 3D printing could get you in the flow.
Vader Systems, LLC, a manufacturer of 3D metal printing machines located in Buffalo, NY recently announced the first commercial sale of the company’s flagship MK1 to Becker CAD-CAM-CAST, a tier one supplier of performance automotive components. The company claims their novel and patented MagnetoJet technology reduces operational costs versus powdered metal processes as well as increasing deposition rates. Using standard aluminum wire, the company boasts a ten-fold decrease in material costs.
The Vader Systems liquid metal process feeds commodity-priced 4043 aluminum wire used in traditional welding applications into a ceramic nozzle. The nozzle is heated to 750℃ – well above the melting point of aluminum – liquefying the feedstock. An electromagnetic coil surrounding the nozzle delivers a computer controlled magnetic field producing a droplet at speeds of 1000 times per second. Similar to an inkjet printer, the liquid metal can then be directed to produce desired shapes. Under development are 6061 and 7075 aluminum alloys, as well as copper and bronze. You can see the process in more detail in the following video:
Using commercially proven components from the welding industry and inexpensive wire feedstock, Vader’s approach is certainly more cost effective than powdered metal alternatives. Powdered metals also introduce logistical concerns of handling and storing the raw powder as well as cleanup of the unused powder following part sintering. While part density of the liquid process appears to be improved over powdered, parts have a casting like appearance so require more machining post processing. If final machining is required, does the Vader process offer a commercial benefit over a proven manufacturing approach such as investment casting?
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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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