Author Topic: Exploring 3D printing in metal  (Read 5483 times)

Online Vixen

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Exploring 3D printing in metal
« on: August 23, 2017, 08:25:53 PM »
I have been following George's and Kvom's  adventures into 3D metal printing with great interest. So rather than hi-jack either of their build logs, I have started a new topic.

Both George and Kvom have been successful in getting small parts printed directly in metal by Shapeways in the USA. George had some rockers and exhaust header parts printed in Stainless steel infused with bronze. Kvom had some small governor parts produced by lost wax casting from 3D printed wax. Both of these examples of 3D metal printing were small and intricate and would have been difficult (but not impossible) to produce by machining.

I enjoy exploring new technology especially if it could be applied to my large 1/3 scale Mercedes engine. A little research revealed there were similar 3D print bureaux in Europe who offered a similar service to Shapeways. Shipping and 20% import duty can be a killer for stuff made in the USA. At the moment, goods move tax free within Europe.

I produced a Solidworks model of the exhaust header for my Mercedes engine and e-mailed the file to three 3D print bureaux to compare prices. I contacted Shapeways, I-materialise and Sculpteo. All three responded with quotations in all available materials with the hour. Sculpteo, based in Paris, were slightly less expensive of the three. I ordered a hard plastic 3D print to prove the Solidworks model and confirm it would fit the space available on my engine.



This is the component I have used for all the cost comparisons. As you can see this exhaust header was considerably larger than the previously described parts. It consists of four flanges and four intersecting pipes each 11 mm in diameter. It would be difficult, but not impossible, to fabricate from tubes and silver solder. 3D metal printing offered a much easier alternative.

Sculpteo are slightly less expensive of the three firms contacted and offered to make one exhaust header in various materials for the following prices:

Laser printed rigid white plastic   12  dimensionally very accurate. This plastic is an ideal way to prove the 3D model and for trial fitting.

Laser sintered aluminium 122  dimensionally accurate

Laser sintered S316 stainless steel 252   dimensionally accurate

Laser sintered titanium  309   dimensionally accurate

Binder printed stainless steel infused with bronze  24  Dimensional errors up to 3 to 4 %  Long thin items can bend and warp. The stainless steel powder is printed with a binder. then bronze powder is melted in a special furnace which infuses into the stainless steel.

Binder printed S316 stainless steel  no price available as the exhaust header was too big for the printer

Lost Wax cast brass 171. Dimensional errors up to 4 %  The lost wax model is laser printed, invested and cast, on site by Sculpteo. The dimensional accuracy can be improved by modifying the 3D model by a few %. Expensive trial and error. Limited to a 75 x 75 x 75 wax print envelope.

Lost Wax cast silver 207. Dimensional errors up to 4 %  Intended for the jewelry trade. The lost wax model is laser printed, invested and cast, on site by Sculpteo. The dimensional accuracy can be improved by modifying the 3D model by a few %. Expensive trial and error. Limited to a 75 x 75 x 75 wax print envelope.

Lost Wax cast aluminium. Lost wax cast aluminium was on trial and is no longer offered.

Shipping was typically 15 per item

The stainless steel infused bronze price looked very attractive, the laser stuff was out of the question.

I ordered the rigid plastic test print, which arrived within five days. The print was perfect, all 16 bolt holes lined up perfectly with those on my engine, the surface texture resembled sand blasted metal, there were none of the contour lines we expect from DIY 3D printing. Everything looked good, perhaps too good to be true. I decided to contact the tech guys in Paris before I placed my order for 4 exhaust headers.

It was just as well I called them. They explained the stainless steel infused with bronze process. It appears the first stage is to 3D print fine stainless steel powder with a special adhesive binder. The stainless steel model resembles a sugar cube but is much more fragile. The SS model is transferred to an autoclave, where it is heated, under pressure and inert gas, together with some fine bronze powder. The bronze melts and infuses the stainless steel model by capillary action  Must be similar to silver solder flashing into a joint when the correct temperature is reached.

Unfortunately larger items and long thin geometry items, such as my exhaust pipes, tend to shrink, twist and warp in an unpredictable manner during the infusion process. Small and compact items do not suffer so badly. The engineer said they would not guarantee dimensional errors to be less than 4% for my geometry and that the error was unpredictable, all four prints could be different. As you can understand my 3D project ended there. The best they could offer for steel infused with bronze was around 5 mm whereas I work to and want +/- 0.1 mm.

So this becomes a cautionary tale; it would seem that low price and high accuracy cannot be achieved for larger objects. The Laser sintered stainless or titanium processes may well give the necessary dimensional accuracy, but the price is prohibitive. I expect all the 3D print bureaux will achieve similar accuracy, if they are honest. They all use the same machinery and production processes. The sales desk promises the world but the engineers are more realistic and truthful.

Well that's my experience of 3D metal printing to-date, other may have better results. I would welcome your feed back and experiences. This looks to be as good a place as any to record our experiences.

Mike
« Last Edit: October 30, 2017, 03:58:15 PM by Vixen »
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Offline Jasonb

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2017, 08:54:36 PM »
Mike, would be worth splitting the manifold drawing down the middle and getting a quote to lost wax cast each half in bronze which you could then silver solder together.

Online Vixen

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2017, 09:08:10 PM »
Jason,

That's one brilliant idea.

Another is to rotate the drawing through 45 degrees, then it will fit within the diagonals of the build box. The quotation system is automatic so does not consider rotating the model through different angles.

My worry is still dimensional accuracy. Lost wax is a four stage process all have shrinkage to cater for. Print the wax, invest it in plaster, burn out and finally pour the metal. Kvom achieved good accuracy but then the governor arm was very small.

I will pursue the lost wax idea with Sculpteo. At least they do talk and discuss. I will try to find out what dimensional accuracy they expect to achieve.

Mike
« Last Edit: August 23, 2017, 09:39:59 PM by Vixen »
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Offline Ye-Ole Steam Dude

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2017, 09:44:53 PM »

Mike thanks for sharing in such an informative manner.

Thomas

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2017, 09:55:22 PM »
Thomas

For pounds, you can read $ dollars or Euros. There value is close enough to give you a comparison of the different processes.

The various 3D print bureaux will give you a firm quotation based on your uploaded drawing within the hour.

Mike
« Last Edit: August 23, 2017, 10:20:01 PM by Vixen »
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Online crueby

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2017, 10:36:45 PM »
Excellent information - thanks! It will be interesting to see how the pricing and material choices evolve over time, this is still a young industry.

For Shapeways, I thought that they also had a printing location in Europe to cut the postage to that part of the world?

I've never tried  contacting foundries to get one-offs made from my own patterns, for those who have, how do these prices compare? I wonder how different the pricing would be to get the pattern printed in plastic or wax, then take them to another foundry?  Seems like someone like Jo-The-Casting-Hoarder would know...   :thinking:

Online Vixen

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2017, 10:46:37 PM »
I am going to follow up Jason brilliant idea of casting two halves and silver soldering them together

When I get the 3D model cut in half, I will upload it to Sculpteo and obtain quotations for a 3D printed wax and also for an investment cast bronze half header.

I will add that information to the data base for all to see.

Not sure if Shapeways use a different name in Europe.

Mike
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Offline jadge

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2017, 10:49:53 PM »
I've examined some parts printed by the stainless steel infused with bronze method. The printing was done in Europe, but I can't remember which country. I don't recall there being huge tolerance issues. But the engineer who ordered the parts was confused as to why his nice shiny stainless steel part had tarnished to a mottled bronze finish over a few weeks.

This is definitely an area to keep an eye on. The company that had the parts made make gas sensors. One issue with the sintered parts is that they are not guarenteed to be gas tight; which may, or may not, be a problem.

Andrew

Offline gbritnell

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2017, 02:58:19 AM »
As I had mentioned when I got my cast parts back from Shapeway, they were done in stainless, they are very hard. They can be touched with a file but just barely so machining can be done with carbide tooling but tapping small holes could be an issue. I would think that brass or bronze would be the better alternative, cost not withstanding.
gbritnell
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Offline Jasonb

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2017, 07:43:16 AM »
Mike regarding accuracy it may be worth thinking of your part as a "casting" when you draw it and leave some thickness on the flanges so they can be machined flat by you and also drill the holes yourself. Not a problem machining the wax and cast items.

Another option would be to just get the two halves of the pipework printed and while soldering them up solder on your own flanges. These could be cut and drilled on your CNC leaving them joined by tabs etc so they are all held in position for soldering to keep then where you want them and then separate after soldering.

Out of interest what is the wall thickness of the pipes? Maybe even draw in some tabs/pins & sockets to line things up for soldering like you get on plastic model kits. They could be external which would allow them to be filed off after soldering to keep a clean bore.

Interesting to see the cost of the aluminium parts, I was thinking of having some bearing brackets done but not at that price, would be better to get PLA and burn it out of a sans mould.

Offline ChuckKey

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2017, 09:26:31 AM »
Might it be possible to get a core for the manifold printed in, or coated with, a conductive material, and produce a manifold by electroplating? ISTR an impressive article in Model Engineer many years ago in which someone did this. They coated the core with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquadag.

Offline Jasonb

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2017, 09:38:05 AM »
Shapeways have a place in the Netherlands and judging by what jobs they have vacancies for looks like where stuff is printed

https://www.shapeways.com/jobs

Offline steamer

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2017, 11:31:52 AM »
Nice write up Mike!   


Lot's to consider there!

DLS is pretty damn accurate in titanium, and I've used those parts before in a Med device prototype.    Amazing properties as well!...

Dave
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Offline Chipswitheverything

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2017, 12:10:10 PM »
Just to say thank you to Mike, Jason and others for explaining aspects of this remarkable and interesting technology and how it can contribute to practical model engineering. Though I'm not personally likely to get involved, it's good to be updated about the scope of these new possibilities.    Dave

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2017, 12:33:12 PM »
Thanks for all your advice and feedback.

I have considered several alternatives for fabricating the Mercedes exhaust headers. I can silver solder copper pipes and elbows in a jig. I already have 12 mm and 10 mm copper elbows and the thin wall copper tube. I have also considered electroforming the bannana bunch pipework in copper and silver soldering that to the flanges. Gathos sell a complete elecrtoforming kit for 75 which contains the chemical bath, the chemicals, sacrificial anodes and the conductive paint.

There are many options but I am trying to keep this thread clean as the knowledge base for 3D metal printing.

We know there are a number of 3D print bureaux who specialise in 3D metal printing. They all use similar processes and all operate through the internet. Their price structures are similar.

The SS infused bronze metal printing is affordable, about double the cost of a plastic print. However, it is important to be aware of it's limitations.  (see below)

Most offer printed wax and also full lost wax casting in brass or bronze. This process is size limited to a 3" (75 mm cube). I am still awaiting price indications of these processes to add to the knowledge base. I would expect the price to be mid way between SS infused Bronze and fully sintered.

The highest dimensional accuracy comes from laser sintered metal printing (aluminium, stainless steel, titanium etc) Unfortunately the cost is astronomical.

By far the most attractive process is the SS infused bronze material. What do we know about this material? George reports it is extremely hard, therefore post finishing will be difficult, requiring carbide tooling etc. This suggests the 3D print should be as near to the finished article as possible.

The tech guys inform me that shrinkage and warping may be an issue, depending on the size and geometry of the object. A long tubular manifold with four unsupported flanges is a particularly poor geometry for SS infused bronze printing. Joining the four flanges with tabs would help.

The predicted errors are 2% for parts below 3" (75 mm), and 3% for parts above 3" and pro rata for larger sizes. That seems to imply that small objects like rocker arms etc should be fine but larger objects may need further design consideration. For instance I can cut my Mercedes manifold in half and add a bridge piece between the two flanges. This will stiffen the object and get me into the smaller error band.

The recommended minimum wall thickness for SS infused bronze is about 1/16" (1.5 mm)

This is a fast evolving market and the 3D printers are all striving for higher and higher quality. How long can we afford to wait?

Mike


« Last Edit: August 24, 2017, 01:05:55 PM by Vixen »
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Offline MMan

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2017, 01:09:43 PM »
Hi Mike,

Just an idle thought.

I am guessing you are more concerned with tolerancing around the flanges than the open end - would they let you provide a tooling plate to hold the flanges all in place? Flat piece of steel with dowels or studs?

All the best,

Martin.

Online Vixen

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2017, 03:19:21 PM »
Hello Martin and everyone.

I have found this video/animation of the SS infused bronze process, which explains a lot. More useful information for the knowledge base.

The SS is held together with a glue binder. The binder is burnt out as the molten bronze infuses through the powdered SS. While the Bronze is still liquid the object being printed has no strength and is supported only by the inert black powder. It is difficult to see how a tooling plate could be attached to the SS + binder. It looks like there is more to be gained in printing a strong back bridge to hold the four flanges in position and so reduce the warping. The bridge can be ground off later.

It's interesting how they bridge the gaps in the feed runners with more loose SS powder and note the substantial ring support surrounding the turbine blades. It's all part of learning to use the process correctly

 

Mike
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Online crueby

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #17 on: August 24, 2017, 05:01:54 PM »
fascinating video - thanks!

Online Fowellbox

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2017, 06:12:25 PM »
fascinating video - thanks!

I agree, shame about the booooy music!
Brian

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #19 on: August 24, 2017, 06:53:51 PM »
fascinating video - thanks!

I agree, shame about the booooy music!
Brian
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Offline b.lindsey

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #20 on: August 25, 2017, 12:25:57 AM »
I have been following this thread with interest but was under the impression that the current state of technology was to print parts directly from the final desired metallic material (in powder form) but then laser fused together without any infusion requirement or secondary steps. For example, a surgeon laser scanning a patients hip joint, transferring the data to a 3D printer there in the operating room, and then printing the needed ball and socket implants directly in titanium for example. The last time I checked, I thought this type of system was available, though still in the $600k to $1 million price range. Is the two step process just a less expensive way to get to a similar end result?

Bill

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #21 on: August 25, 2017, 09:39:23 AM »
Bill,

You are correct, high power lasers are used to directly melt (sinter) pure metal powder to form very accurate 3D objects, like titanium surgical implants etc. The equipment is very expensive and the cost of each print is also expensive

Low cost, two stage, processes have been developed to reduce production costs. Ink jet technology is used to bind (glue) stainless steel metal powder into the required shape. Bronze is then melted and infused into the stainless steel to give it strength. This process can be ten times less expensive than direct laser sintering but the printed object is less accurate.

There is another low cost, two stage, process which prints a wax object which is used to cast brass, bronze or precious metal objects, using the lost wax casting techniques.

If you go back and check post #1 of this topic, you will find price comparisons for the various technologies. I will add the comparable lost wax prices when they become available

Mike
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Offline b.lindsey

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2017, 11:45:24 AM »
Thanks for the clarification Mike!

Bill

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2017, 12:08:22 PM »
Bill,

The low cost, two stage, metal printing processes are easily within reach of model engine builders, especially for small intricate items like rocker arms etc. which can be difficult to make by conventional means.

As model engine makers, we are used to buying castings (some are inveterate collectors) so the idea of buying a 3D printed item should be quite acceptable.

Mike
« Last Edit: August 25, 2017, 01:19:48 PM by Vixen »
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Offline b.lindsey

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #24 on: August 25, 2017, 01:13:03 PM »
Mike,  I think as the pricing for 3D printing continues to come down for metals, just as it has for plastics, we may well see 3D printed "kits" replace casting kits, in the not too distant future. It certainly has some interesting implications for the hobby overall doesn't it?

Bill

Offline kvom

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #25 on: August 26, 2017, 01:51:56 AM »
It's possible to print sand for molds these days using resin filler.

Offline Jasonb

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #26 on: August 26, 2017, 07:45:53 AM »
It's possible to print sand for molds these days using resin filler.

Yes

Online Vixen

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #27 on: August 26, 2017, 11:42:18 AM »
I am sure that when it becomes more widely available, the '3D printed sand mold' technique will have much more to offer the model engine maker than 3D printed metal parts. Currently the availability of 3D printed sand mold is limited to top-end aerospace and specialist foundries.

The 3D printed sand mold is much favored by the historic car restoration companies such as Crossthwaite and Gardner or Jim Stokes Workshops. If you have a cool 6 million to spend, C+G will build you an exact replica of one of the legendary Auto Union Silver Arrows cars from the 1930's. Exact in all respects except for the letter R cast into each part. This is to denote the car is merely a 6M replica, not a priceless original.

This short video shows a vintage aircraft engine crankcase being re-manufactured using the 3D printed sand technique. From 3D scanning, production drawings, molten metal flow simulations, editing the 3D model to compensate for shrinkage and addition of material on the machined faces, printing the sand molds, the foundry and final machining. Other than pouring the hot metal, everything is digital.

Have a look at



Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the 3D printed sand molds will be more widely available, perhaps the 3D printing buraux may also offer this service at a sensible price.

Mike

Sorry about this sound track as well Brian, you can always try the volume control.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 12:16:25 PM by Vixen »
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Offline Steamer5

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #28 on: August 27, 2017, 01:24:22 AM »
Hi Mike,
 That's a great video!  I don't think SWMBO would allow a workshop expansion to tool up! Really neat to see this stuff. A friend of my Dad's has been working on some Rolls Royce  restoration for some years & one included a complete new gear box, RR cast it form them, cost a cool $40 k! But that was the easy bit, the machining was very complex to tight tolerance
Cheers Kerrin
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Online Vixen

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #29 on: October 30, 2017, 02:57:35 PM »
I now have a full set of prices from Sculpteo with which we can compare the various materials and techniques used for 3D metal printing.

In addition to this post, I have updated post #1 so that the information is available as soon as you access this topic.



This is the component I have used for all the cost comparisons. As you can see this exhaust header was considerably larger than the previously described parts. It consists of four flanges and four intersecting pipes each 11 mm in diameter. It would be difficult, but not impossible, to fabricate from tubes and silver solder. 3D metal printing offered a much easier alternative.

Sculpteo are slightly less expensive of the three firms contacted and offered to make one exhaust header in various materials for the following prices:

Laser printed rigid white plastic   12  dimensionally very accurate. This plastic is an ideal way to prove the 3D model and for trial fitting.

Laser sintered aluminium 122  dimensionally accurate

Laser sintered S316 stainless steel 252   dimensionally accurate

Laser sintered titanium  309   dimensionally accurate

Binder printed stainless steel infused with bronze  24  Dimensional errors up to 3 to 4 %  Long thin items can bend and warp. The stainless steel powder is printed with a binder. then bronze powder is melted in a special furnace which infuses into the stainless steel.

Binder printed S316 stainless steel  no price available as the exhaust header was too big for the printer

Lost Wax cast brass 171. Dimensional errors up to 4 %  The lost wax model is laser printed, invested and cast, on site by Sculpteo. The dimensional accuracy can be improved by modifying the 3D model by a few %. Expensive trial and error. Limited to a 75 x 75 x 75 wax print envelope.

Lost Wax cast silver 207. Dimensional errors up to 4 %  Intended for the jewelry trade. The lost wax model is laser printed, invested and cast, on site by Sculpteo. The dimensional accuracy can be improved by modifying the 3D model by a few %. Expensive trial and error. Limited to a 75 x 75 x 75 wax print envelope.

Lost Wax cast aluminium. Lost wax cast aluminium was on trial and is no longer offered.

Shipping was typically 15 per item

The bottom line appears to suggest 3D printed metal is more suitable for smaller items than the large exhaust header used as an example in this exercise.

"If you require accuracy; you cannot afford it. If you want it to be affordable then it wont be too accurate"



« Last Edit: October 30, 2017, 03:57:42 PM by Vixen »
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Offline Jasonb

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #30 on: October 30, 2017, 03:44:45 PM »
Thanks for the update.

Online Vixen

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Re: Exploring 3D printing in metal
« Reply #31 on: October 30, 2017, 03:55:45 PM »
Jason,

I have followed up on the lost wax firms you supplied. Only CRO have replied so far. It seems CRO use a 3D printed wax technique similar to Sculpteo. They get the work done in NZ and ship the completed items to the UK. At the moment CRO have only done brass/ bronze castings and are checking if aluminium is available from the supplier.
Unfortunately Sculpteo no longer offer lost wax aluminium, it may have been a process problem.
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