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New at Jellypipe: FDM Metal 3D Printing

Metal 3D printing has the potential to greatly transform the metalworking industry. Extremely durable materials, lightweight components, high durability and, most importantly, fast and cost-effective design adjustments: Metal printing brings numerous benefits.

In this article, you'll learn all the details about FDM metal 3D printing, the materials used, design guidelines and more, so you can plan your project in the best possible way.

Jellypipe Metall 3D-Druck Bauteil Ultrafuse 17-4 PH
Additiv gefertigtes Metall Bauteil Ultrafuse 316 L
Additiv gefertigtes Metall Bauteil Ultrafuse 17-4 PH

The process for FDM metal 3D printing is based on the well-known fused deposition modeling technique, supplemented with a sintering process to harden the metal parts. Important to know: The terms FDM (fused deposition modeling) and FFF (fused filament fabrication) are technically identical.

Content of this article:

  • How FDM/FFF technology works for metals.
  • Shrinkage and scaling
  • Technology Comparison Metal 3D Printing
  • The Materials
    • Ultrafuse® 316L (comparable to stainless steel 1.4404)
    • Ultrafuse® 17-4 PH (comparable to stainless steel 1.4542)
  • Design Guidelines
  • Post-processing
  • Conclusion

How FDM additive manufacturing technology works for metals

In fused deposition modeling, the material to be processed is fed to the hot end in filament form via an extruder. There it is melted down and then applied to a print bed via a nozzle in the desired geometry defined by the CAD file. Layer by layer, the component - previously made of plastic - is created in the work area.

FDM metal 3D printing works in the same way. Again, the material is fed in filament form, melted, and applied in layers to the print bed. The Ultrafuse® filament material consists of metal powder held together with polyoxymethylene (POM) binders.

When 3D printing is complete, the so-called "green part" is created. The green part corresponds as far as possible to the later finished part, but still contains the binders, which have to be removed in the next step. The "debinding" is carried out in highly automated furnaces by means of catalytic acid vaporization. During the process, about 90% of the binder is removed and the component loses about 10.5% of its weight. The result of debinding is the "brown part."

Jellypipe 3D-Druck Bauteil FDM Edelstahl 1.4542 Rohform grün und fertig gesintert

The brown part is now subjected to a further production step: sintering. During sintering, the material is compressed by heat or pressure and formed into a solid material mass. The sintering temperature in this process is always below the melting temperature of the metal used so that it does not liquefy. The process starts at 250°C and is completed at 600°. The brown part shrinks by another 16% in the X and Y axes, and by 20% in the Z axis.

After sintering, the metal part is finished. Depending on the application, it can then be finished by bead blasting and polishing.

Fig.: Jellypipe component green part (left in picture) and after the sintering process.

Shrinkage and scaling in FFF metal 3D printing

As you can imagine, the shrinkage process is a crucial phase, for the perfect part. The shrinkage of the printed metal part during sintering can be predicted very precisely. After the first iteration, the accuracy is already 0.4 millimeters, and after the subsequent rescaling, tolerances of 0.2 to 0.25 millimeters can realistically be maintained. In series production, one or two iterations are usually carried out first, so that tolerances of up to 0.1 millimeters can also be achieved.

Important to know: the design of the component is always done in the original size. I.e. the 3D print file must correspond exactly to the finished component. The scaling parameters are calculated accordingly by the printer software during processing at the Print Partner.

Ultrafuse® FFF Metal 3D Printing in Direct Comparison with Other Technologies

Ultrafuse® stainless steel materials from BASF Forward AM are available at the Jellypipe 3D printing service. In direct comparison to other metal printing technologies such as binder jetting or DMLS/SLM, FFF with Ultrafuse® offers easily removable support structures and very simple material handling. Therefore, the cost of the parts is also significantly lower than, for example, from SLM 3D printing. These can be up to 50% cheaper depending on the design and number of parts. One difference is the accuracy, if very exact tolerances are needed, SLM metal printing is preferable to FFF.

Another advantage of FDM metal 3D printing is the ability to create closed parts with infills. This is not possible with powder bed technologies like SLM because a small opening is required to remove the powder.

It is not possible to give a blanket answer as to which technology is optimal for manufacturing a part. It depends on the design and the properties that the finished part must have.

If you have little or no experience, the first thing to do is talk to one of our Solution Partners for advice. Or create an "individual inquiry" with all details in the store, so that we can offer you the optimal solution.

The materials: Ultrafuse® stainless steel

The stainless steel Ultrafuse® 3D printing materials have proven to be exceedingly suitable for metal components. The following materials are available from Jellypipe:

Additiv gefertigtes Metall Bauteil Ultrafuse 316 L

Ultrafuse® 316L

Comparable to stainless steel 1.4404

The metal has increased corrosion resistance. It is therefore perfectly suited for applications in humid and salty environments. Possible applications are pipe connections, spare parts e.g. for packaging equipment, tools, jigs and fixtures.

The technical properties can be found here: Ultrafuse® 316L material detail page incl. technical data sheet.

Additiv gefertigtes Metall Bauteil Ultrafuse 17-4 PH

Ultrafuse® 17-4 PH

Comparable to stainless steel 1.4542

Stainless steel has higher mechanical properties and hardness. The hardness is achieved by heat treatment. The material is suitable, for example, for machine parts, spare parts, tools, gauges and fixtures.

Material detail page Ultrafuse® 17-4 PH incl. technical data sheet

Post-processing:

Additively manufactured metal parts can be subjected to various post-processing methods to optimize the surface quality. In the area of post-processing, bead blasting for robust, insensitive and matte surfaces on the one hand and polishing on the other hand are recommended.

Design Guidelines for FDM Metal 3D Printing Parts

When designing metal components from Ultrafuse® for additive manufacturing, there are a few rules to follow. The following basics are important:

  • There are technical size limitations when debinding/sintering. Therefore, the goal of the design should be components with a maximum size of 100 x 100 x 100 millimeters. If you need larger parts, please clarify the possibilities with us first (depending on the design).
  • Please always create your design in the original size of the component (the allowance for shrinkage is calculated by the Print Partner in the printing process)
  • Please always design holes in components larger than 10 millimeters in drop form. This avoids support structures.
  • Sharp edges on components can lead to stress cracks. Chamfers or radii at the edges of the construction are better.
  • The center of gravity of the component determines the final shape. Therefore, place the center of gravity so that it is aligned as low as possible in the direction of the printing platform.
  • Design wall thicknesses of at least 1.2 millimeters, ideally a multiple of 0.4 mm (size of the nozzle). Thick wall thicknesses offer significant advantages in the sintering process.
  • FFF with Ultrafuse® filaments enables the production of metal parts with a lightweight internal structure. Through clever design of the infills, significant weight can be saved here compared to completely filled components.

Conclusion: Metal components from the 3D printer have become affordable

What was still science fiction a few years ago is no longer a problem today thanks to the latest technology for additive manufacturing. FFF or FDM technology in particular impresses with high-precision, fast manufacturing and easily controllable production processes for metal 3D printing.

The new technology is on its way to overtake selective laser melting(SLM). As FFF is up to 50% cheaper, and also offers excellent possibilities for lightweight parts with infills.

Talk to one of our Solution Partners and take advantage of the FDM printing service or the new technology. We will be happy to advise you without obligation on the best possible manufacturing strategy for your components!

Your Jellypipe Team

Autor

Markus Grimm
Chief Virtual Printfactory

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