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Desktop Metal Advances 3DP for Reactive Metals

May 9, 2024
Desktop Metal has developed an upgrade for its binder-jet additive manufacturing process that allows high-speed printing of complex parts in titanium and aluminum alloys.

Additive manufacturing developer Desktop Metal is adding a reactive safety kit to its P-1 metal printing system, and reports the update will allow high-speed production of parts from fine titanium and aluminum powders. Noting that the kit has been in development and testing for over two years, Desktop Metal said the new feature makes it possible to print reactive metals in an inert atmosphere.

“Titanium and aluminum are two of the most frequently requested materials at Desktop Metal, and we’re proud to say that we can now offer a commercial 3D printer with the necessary safety features to binder-jet-3D-print these materials,” stated Desktop Metal CEO Ric Fulop. “Based on our ongoing projects with major manufacturers, we know our technology is well on its way to unlocking new designs that deliver higher performance, weight reductions, and other benefits – all with our high-speed 3D-printing technology that makes additive manufacturing more affordable for production volumes.”

Desktop Metal reported it has contracts with six manufacturers — in automaking, commercial lighting, and medical implant — to scale production of complex titanium or aluminum parts. One manufacturer using the P-1 with a reactive safety kit is TriTech Titanium Parts in Detroit, which has been testing its P-1 with a reactive safety kit for two years, and is now printing both titanium and aluminum parts.

Large aluminum parts are being 3D-printed for customers at DM's headquarters in Burlington, MA, using an upgraded X25Pro system with a 25-liter build volume.

The reactive safety kit reportedly has been in development and testing for over two years. It includes ATEX-rated components, plus system hardware and software updates, to maximize safety in production of reactive metals. ATEX is a certification granted to electronic or electrical equipment that has been tested according to EU standards and determined to be safe to use in explosive atmospheres.

Desktop Metal’s binder-jet additive manufacturing technology is now qualified to print more than 30 metals and ceramic materials, and the P-1 system is qualified to print 17 metals, including stainless steels, low-alloy steels, copper alloys, tool steels, nickel-based alloys, precious metals, and more.

Binder-jet printing involves an industrial printhead selectively depositing a liquid binding agent onto a bed of powder (e.g., a powdered metal alloy, foundry sand, ceramic or composite material) according to a CAD-defined pattern, to form three-dimensional parts and tooling. Printed metal parts are sintered after printing.

Desktop Metal introduced the P-1 printer in 2020. It uses a patent-pending, high-speed process called Single Pass Jetting™ to print individual layers in less than 3 seconds (depending on the material.) The developer states the P-1 effective for research and development projects, as well as “batch or serial production of small, complex parts.”

“Our team at TriTech has found binder jetting to be a good complement to our metal injection molding (MIM) business,” stated Robert Swenson, owner of TriTech. “With binder jet 3D-printing, titanium production of even the most complex geometries can be greatly simplified and achieved at a lower cost. We’re excited to offer this cutting-edge manufacturing technology to our customers.”

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)