Read on to learn more about metal 3D printing with Markforged technology…
There are several metal 3D printing technologies suited to different applications, and all of them work differently:
- SLM (Selective Laser Melting) is the most mature technology, using high-powered lasers to selectively fuse metal powder spread on a bed into solid parts.
- LMD (Laser Material Deposition) is an offshoot of SLM, precisely blowing powder out of a print head onto a part, using an on-head laser to fuse the layers.
- Binder Jetting is a large-scale print process, selectively depositing liquid binder into layers of powder, building up the layers. Sintering is needed to fuse them solid.
- BPE (Bound Powder Extrusion) is a newcomer to metal 3D printing used by the Metal X, where the metal filament is extruded as a metal powder bound in plastic.
Binder Jetting has the most potential to push metal 3D printing into large-scale manufacturing, while BPE can do the same for small series production.
Bound Powder Extrusion – a twist on FFF
BPE metal 3D printing is similar to Fused Filament Fabrication technology for plastics in that the 3D printer extrudes a metal powder bound in plastic.
The Markforged Metal X uses this technology in a process the company calls Metal FFF.
Metal FFF produces parts that contain metal powder evenly distributed in waxy polymer.
Once printed, the part is placed into the Wash-1, a heated debinding system that circulates Opeteon SF-79 to break down the binding material.
You then sinter the ‘green’ part at a temperature suitable for the metal to transform it into a solid metal part. The furnace heats the metal to 85% of its melting point, turning the binding agent into dust.
You can pick up the Metal X with the Wash 1 and Sinter 2 stations in this package, giving you a complete workflow solution for metal 3D printing.
The advantages of BPE for 3D printing
The advantage of BPE for small series production is it offers relatively fast print speeds and requires significantly less space than SLM systems.
Additionally, it enjoys the same flexibility as FFF – open-cell infill, detailed geometry reproduction, low cost, and high-quality surface finish.
It also has advantages over powder-based systems – no powder management, less waste, more straightforward processing and reduced facility requirements.
You also need to factor in Markforged’s impressive material ecosystem. We’ve covered FFF/FDM metals before, but the Markforged ecosystem includes 17-PH stainless steel, A2 and D2 tool steels, H13 tool steel, Inconel 625 and Copper.
The only downside to BPE 3D printing (but also inherent to other metal 3D printing processes) is that parts may need post-processing to make them suitable for end-use (e.g., machining, filing, polishing, heat treatment).
Markforged released the Metal X Gen 2 last year with additional chamber insulation, door position sensors, and a 7” touchscreen. They also released Next Day Metal, an over-the-air software update for the Metal X that unlocks print speeds up to twice as fast.
To find out more about Markforged technology, please book a discovery call with our Markforged specialists, Kevin Askew or Ian Smith.