Metal 3D printing delivers perfect performance in 2021

Metal 3D printing is the trend in industrial production in 2021, this has already emerged in 2020 and this became particularly clear in 2021 already in the 1st quarter. Metal 3D printing, additive manufacturing using lasers and metal powder (metal) is one of the most significant trends in industrial production in 2021. The advantages of metal 3D printing compared to cost- and material-intensive traditional manufacturing are obvious: previously unthinkable designs become possible and now even processes with up to twelve lasers are conceivable – the way for series production on an industrial scale is just being paved.

Learn more about metal 3D printing 

Trovustech Kontrukt

But what exactly is it that is pushing industrial production so far? Metal 3D printing – the technical term for this is selective laser melting (SLM) – is a printing technology in which material (in this case metal powder) is applied to a base layer by layer by means of lasers. Once a layer is melted, the next layer comes on top and is fused by lasers. On top of that comes the next layer, and so on. SLM is a technology that meets high industry quality standards. An airtight environment and additional use of argon prevents oxygen from the air from contaminating the material.

For which applications is metal 3D printing suitable?

Metal 3D printing is ideal for a variety of applications:

A component needs internal channels where conventional subtractive processes (i.e. classical machining) reach their limits?
This is where additive manufacturing can show its strengths to the full, regardless of whether metal or plastic is to be used.
Previously unthinkable lightweight construction: You have to manufacture a component where the limits in terms of weight have been reached by machining? Here, too, additive manufacturing can Intelligent materials: SLM can be used to manufacture components that have different properties. Lattice structures, threads, cavities and internal structures are suddenly feasible at all.

Cost-saving production: each part receives exactly only the contours that are absolutely necessary.
Creative designs: Metal 3D printingcan replace complicated and complex components with one part.
Time is money – it’s all a matter of printing! The technologyMetal 3D Printing works cost-efficiently and sustainably and shortens any design and manufacturing process.

With metal 3D printing, established processes experience pure performance

The forecasts of many experts show how strongly metal 3D printing is currently firing the imagination in industry. Printers are a breath of fresh air in industrial manufacturing. Thanks to metal 3D printing, we will soon see larger additive manufacturing systems using ten or twelve lasers, which will exponentially grow the manufacturing expertise needed. There are also better materials for plug-and-play but also more high-end performance materials that meet high industry standards. At TROVUS Tech GmbH, we have the development expertise to establish the advantages in lattice structures, for example. Our printers produce so-called intelligent components from metal, but in particular also from aluminum and plastic, thanks to previously unimaginable design freedom – form and function merge.

Additive manufacturing is THE industry trend 2021 and this is not hot air!

A clear trend in metal 3D printing in 2021 is the clear march towards standardization and series production. The requirements for design, functionality and individuality are leading to increased demands for quality in more and more industries and applications, with ever greater cost pressure at the same time. Metal 3D printing makes this supposed squaring of the circle possible by saving costs (such as for material and working time) and tooling already at the design stage. For metal 3D printing, the set of possible uses will expand to include many new applications in 2021. For example, solid-state batteries, organs and houses could be created in this modern way.

The advantages of metal 3D printing at a glance

Unbeatable advantages are the reason for the triumph of printers in terms of cost as well as technology. Prototypes and small series for tools, housings, metal components and other products (made of materials such as metal or plastic) can be produced cost-effectively. Due to the geometrical freedom and unlimited complexity, technical advantages result from the metal 3D printing process without additional manufacturing costs. And if necessary, we at TROVUS Tech combine metal 3D printing with the minimum necessary processes of machining – so we can “marry” both, metal 3D printing and machining – best cost for unprecedented technology!

While others are only now noticing the trend, we have been experienced for years

Where others are just now discovering the trend, we at TROVUS Tech are already experienced in metal 3D printing since our foundation in 2017. Currently, we can observe that additive manufacturing is torn between the urge for innovation and the necessary industrialization. Initial market forecasts paint a positive picture for 2021, with sales figures for industrial 3D printers expected to increase significantly from the third quarter onwards, as predicted by the British market research company Context. According to this, the new and powerful printers in particular, which are suitable for series production with metals, are expected to drive development. Another push effect for the maturity of the technology could be the focus on some application areas. The key to greater efficiency could also lie in even larger additive manufacturing systems that use ten or twelve lasers. The main advantage of this is that lasers can be used to expose multiple components simultaneously, saving extreme amounts of time and money. This helps the SLM process to become more competitive in the direction of series production.

What comes out is incredibly versatile

There are hardly any limits to creativity when it comes to SLM technology. This is gradually entering the minds of manufacturers and designers and is also a reason for the positive forecasts for metal 3D printing. Some examples from the TROVUS Tech forge show how versatile this technology is. For example, we have produced high-end aluminum components for the bicycle industry – one-offs in series production. In doing so, we have found the optimum in terms of weight, stiffness and costs. For our aluminum component 3.0, we set ourselves the goal of reducing weight while maintaining the same strength. The result was a generatively designed part with a weight reduction of 60 percent – more than halving the weight from 370 grams to 150 grams. For another customer, the aim was faster process times and more precise approach to different working points, for which we optimized some standard parts. The slide and mover of the linear system were reduced by 60 percent and, as a positive side effect, purchasing costs were cut. We are the lightweight design experts: Whether it is a matter of bell cranks or other components. We are convinced that there will be growth in both wire-based processes (metal/metal and plastic) and printed electronics.

Outstanding prospects? Why is that? 

If industry experts are already predicting outstanding prospects for metal 3D printing, there must be good reasons for this. So what positive developments led to this assessment in 2020? Standardization is one of the keys to series production of components with SLM technology. A very big trend in 2021 could be the possibility of additive series production of functional components as the industry replaces some process chains with metal 3D printing. This will require standardization of applications. Only with the permanent application of a technology can industrial implementation occur and it will become established.

Great interest in lattice structures – Great interest in lattices

One of the most conspicuous trends that will shape the year 2021 is grid structures, so-called lattices, which are attracting great interest. We at TROVUS Tech are constantly receiving inquiries about this. And we have to say: these are structures that show exactly what metal 3D printing stands for – completely new design possibilities, specifically tailored to the application. Possibilities that would be unthinkable with traditional manufacturing methods. Optimizing printing time thanks to faster printing speeds – while maintaining consistently high quality – is also likely to play a role. Keywords such as individualization, time-saving plug-and-play for standard materials and applications will gain in relevance. In addition, there will be improved and new possibilities for post-processing, production of near-series components, and the combination of hard and soft components.

Series production in more and more industries

In more and more industries and applications, the requirements for design, functionality and individuality are leading to fully automated series production (metal 3D printing). For the new technology to become efficient, the entire value chain must be optimized. This includes clever component design and simpler, partially automated upstream and downstream processes. The manufacturing industry has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years. Here, it is now less about the primary use of prototypes and more about production solutions.

Metal 3D printing benefited from 2020

Most people would probably prefer to kick the year 2020 into the dustbin because of the pandemic reasons. The virus has put all of society to the test. But the new reality that the pandemic has brought forth has revealed monumental revelations, most notably in technology:

Remote access and functional operations have been given robust environments.
Automation and robotics turned out to be far more flexible and adaptable than many previously wanted to believe
Metal 3D printingplayed quite a realistic role in 2021 manufacturing.

The additive industry had quick and reliable answers to the pandemic challenges: Pressure masks, respirators, door openers, swabs, etc. pp. Metal 3D printing can respond to supply chain disruption or broken supply line repair with modern and forward-looking solutions. Furthermore, 3D printers rejoiced in the new ambitions in space applications. Nearly every major rocket manufacturer is turning to metal 3D printing for those all-important lightweight parts. It will be interesting to see how this division develops in light of the recent space race.

Understanding the quantum leap of metal 3D printing technology

To understand why metal 3D printing technology is nothing less than a quantum leap in the production of goods, it helps to take a look at the past. But don’t worry – it won’t be a novel. After all, the idea of metal 3D printing has only been in this world for a short time. The US American Chuck Hull is generally regarded as the inventor of 3D printing. He called his invention, which he patented (patent: US4575330), stereolithography. This involved curing a light-sensitive liquid with a UV laser.

Invention of 3D printing reflects the spirit of the times

Chuck Hull founded the company 3D-Systems. Just as with the invention of cars and airplanes, however, several people in different places around the world had been working on the same inventions at the same time. So it was with 3D printing. It was actually discovered by Hideo Kodama of the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute. However, he was unable to register his patent in time due to a formal error, and Chuck Hull beat him to it. 3D printing thus reflects nothing other than the zeitgeist of the era. It was time for this innovative and highly exciting technology.

FDM – Printers apply materials layer by layer

Also in 1989, Scott Crump applied for a patent (US5121329) for the FDM printing process, in which a plastic is melted and then applied layer by layer. The abbreviation FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, which loosely translates as “applying molten material to form a model.” Subsequently, various variations of the basic processes have been developed and are now accessible to an increasingly wide range of people.

The story is just beginning

The history of metal 3D printing has a story that is far from over. It is – as can be seen impressively at the moment – just getting started. We at TROVUS Tech are happy to be able to help more and more companies in the field of industrial part production to achieve their goals in terms of unique design advantages, prototypes and small series, and to support them in realizing their full potential and producing sustainably because they need less material than with machining and also save money. And they can do it with the same quality and greater part variety than the industry has ever had.

We use materials such as metal powder, aluminum, and plastic.

At TROVUS Tech we use materials such as metal powder (metal), but also aluminum and plastic. Our printers are used for all those who have reached their limits in machining, because smart products are becoming less and less feasible with this conventional technology. We always want our customers to benefit from the best of both types of manufacturing (subtractive as well as additive). We are experts in 3D design and printing. Our goal is to cover the entire value chain: From services such as analyses and workshops, to development and simulation, to manufacturing and finishing (machining, surface treatment, quality inspection), everything comes from a single source at TROVUS Tech.

Once we have loaded our printers with materials such as metal powder (metal) or aluminum, the fascinating process of metal 3D printing begins. Until today we are still fascinated by this technology every time. Let us also inspire you with the possibilities and forecasts related to metal 3D printing.

The goal: to become as natural as subtractive manufacturing

Our goal is to make selective laser melting so familiar in the minds of designers and companies that they think of metal 3D printing as naturally as they have thought of machining in production. Where machining reaches its limits, we have the solution. We simply turn the tables and propose the additive process instead of subtractive fabrications: Selective laser melting means that we do not remove material until we have extracted the desired shape from the raw material. We apply the starting material layer by layer. A fine metal powder is deposited in thin layers on a build surface in this technology. The lasers then fuse it into a stable component. The smart thing about it? Each component gets exactly only the contours it absolutely needs, with the same quality but with less weight and for lower material costs.

What actually is a laser?

You read and hear about lasers all the time, but what are they? Laser is the abbreviation for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Laser radiation has impressive properties: it has exactly one wavelength and is therefore highly monochromatic (monochromaticity), the waves oscillate in parallel at the same rate (coherence) and have strong beam bundling (the diameter of the beam is very small even at a great distance from the source). What is very useful in 3D printing is also the property of high radiation density of lasers – on a small area hits radiation with high intensity, because of the strong bundling and large amplification of radiation. Thus, even the radiation density of the sun can be exceeded many times.

Exciting energy conversion for the exact same wavelength

To generate laser radiation, one must first excite a laser medium by supplying energy. Laser media include solids such as a ruby crystal, but also semiconductors, liquids (such as dissolved dyes) and gases (such as a helium-neon mixture). Excitation energy is provided by flash lamps, chemical reactions, electrical gas discharges, or via another laser. Some excited atoms or molecules of the laser medium emit photons and return to the unexcited state. If, however, they meet excited atoms or molecules, these also emit photons (light quanta), which correspond exactly to the photons met in phase, wavelength and direction of emission.

Become a part of the future of the industry

Our offer covers the complete range from metal 3D printing and plastic 3D printing to design and special workshops. We offer services such as analysis, development and simulation as well as production and finishing – we cover the entire value chain. We are committed to the highest quality standards and go many ways to achieve this, think around several corners and constantly expand our creative space. It is important to us that you are satisfied on the way to the future of industry: production with the help of 3D printing technology. You too can be part of the great revolution in industrial manufacturing.