7 Issues to look out for in Metal 3D Printing

For some engineers, 3D printing may be coming on in an unwelcome rush. Pressured by management forces who have read how additive manufacturing (AM) will save the world, reducing a hundred-part assembly into one part, or making super-lightweight parts with only skins over lattices, the engineers are subjecting the 3D-printed components and process to the microscope and, in some cases, have found them wanting.

Background

The dominant form of metal 3D printing is powder bed fusion, in which an energy source—a laser in the case of selective laser melting (SLM) or an electron beam in electron beam manufacturing (EBM)—fuses particles of metal powder together point by point, layer by layer until an object is complete. Powder bed fusion systems have mechanisms for controlling the energy source and the distribution of powder.

A diagram of the powder bed fusion process. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

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