Intelligent metal – technology is progress
A major topic in our industry at the moment is “intelligent metal”. Here, the tables are turned: The components are no longer adapted to the material, but the material is adapted to the specific properties of the desired components. The materials can adapt intelligently to the conditions and no compromises have to be made anymore. Initially, whether or not the prototypes can be manufactured in this way plays only a secondary role in the development process of the intelligent metal or the intelligent component. Only the achievement of optimal functionality is the focus of the developers. In the following, we would like to show you various approaches and possibilities which make a component “intelligent” and how the properties of certain materials (e.g. aluminum) can be used in a targeted manner:
Internal channels are mainly used as cooling channels. The creation of these channels has been revolutionized with metal 3D printing (SLM). As a result, the heat sinks are constructed many times more efficiently, as the component structures ensure better contact with the fluids to be cooled. As a result, heat exchange takes place more directly and much more effectively. However, not only heat-exchanging fluids can be transported in the channels, but also cables or cable pulls find space in the channels of the components and are thus protected from external influences at the same time. An illustrative example of this would be the frame of a bicycle, where the brake lines are located. This technology is particularly popular in special machine construction and for burner nozzles.
This variant of supporting certain areas of the components has also only been possible since metal 3D printing. Special honeycomb or grid structures can make bodies much lighter while still guaranteeing full stability and strength. This allows valuable resources to be saved in production without having to make compromises. Panels can be built with a special honeycomb structure whose pattern is regionally denser to better withstand stresses that occur. Of course, the wall thickness can also be customized. This means that components can be reinforced at precisely the point where this is needed and are thus optimized. In car body construction, such reinforcements can also be achieved with metal inserts.
Do you have questions about metal 3D printing, especially in the field of aluminum? We are your experts in additive manufacturing, prototyping and other 3D printing processes. Feel free to contact our service team and let us advise you. You can also find a lot of helpful information about materials, properties and applications of metal 3D printing in our blog. Feel free to browse through.
Hollow internal structures
Analogous to the regional reinforcements mentioned above, you can save valuable weight in components by using honeycomb and lattice structures. Valuable material (e.g., aluminum) that is not actually needed for stability per se can simply be omitted in 3D printing. Likewise, components that cannot be made smaller in terms of their external geometry can be provided with these lattice structures on the inside. This approach is only possible thanks to the 3D printing process.
Here, nature is our greatest inspiration: Whether blades of grass, cell tissue or branching on plants – where forces act, material is used, where no forces act, simply omitted. In this way, bionics is also based on the flow of forces in the component and then designs it accordingly. In this way, for example, levers from the aerospace industry can be made lighter, while of course still retaining the necessary stability and strength. Of course, the integration of internal channels is also conceivable here – in aluminum 3D printing, there are (almost) no limits to inventiveness.
Undercuts in metal can lead to high weight savings if they are used correctly. However, they also bring challenges: mechanical rework, for example. With the 3D printing process, enclosed cavities can be built up with the right design without support material, often eliminating the need for additional rework. For turbines or components with air ducts, such undercuts are very important because they simplify assembly. Grid structures could be used here as possible undercuts, although they can also function without a support structure (if used correctly).
Combination with functional surfaces
Only very few aluminum components can do without post-processing by milling. An intelligent combination of the two processes can help here. For this purpose, an allowance is created on the functional surfaces of printed components, which are then milled later. Conventional milling designs can thus be combined easily and innovatively with 3D printer technology.
Hybrid metal combinations (different materials)
This approach to intelligent metal is not currently offered by our company, but it should be mentioned briefly for the sake of completeness. In this approach, materials are combined according to their specific properties. Soft, flexible contact points made of plastic or hard, abrasion-resistant contact points made of stainless steel or aluminum – everything is conceivable here. In addition, mixed combinations of different manufacturing processes are possible and often even necessary.
A compliant system describes the possibility of using material properties in a targeted manner in order to save components such as joints or springs. For example, diaphragms, bellows or spring joints can already be integrated into the components. In addition, complex motion mechanisms can be produced from a single component. This is all done with the background of minimizing individual components and ultimately costs.
TROVUS TECH – Intelligent metal, more than just aluminum prototypes
We at TROVUS TECH are dedicated to metal and especially aluminum 3D printing. The new approaches and applications inspire us daily to test the limits of the technology by means of SLM. Our goal is not to replace established procedures, but to complement them with additive manufacturing in a meaningful way. If you would also like to know whether your company would benefit from 3D printing, please contact our service team. You can also find a lot of important information in our other blog posts. Let yourself be infected by our passion and move with us towards the future: aluminum 3D printing.