The ExOne Company, a global leader in industrial sand and metal 3D printers using binder jetting technology, announced that 15 new metal, ceramic and composite materials have been qualified by ExOne and its customers for 3D printing on the company’s family of metal 3D printers.
With these additions, owners of ExOne metal 3D printers can now print 21 qualified materials: 10 single-alloy metals, six ceramics, and five composite materials. More than 24 additional powders have been qualified for 3D printing in controlled research and development environments, including aluminum and Inconel 718.
ExOne customers have been printing with 14 materials that had not undergone the company’s rigorous qualification process. That included six single alloys, six ceramics, and two ceramic-metal composites.
Simultaneously, new materials such as M2 Tool Steel achieved the highest qualified status, and other materials, such as aluminum and titanium, were qualified for controlled R&D printing.
ExOne’s qualification process is deliberately tough – it’s meant to designate that customers can buy a metal printer and have standard 3D printing with repeatable results out of the box. Third parties also certify the results in a “Third-Party Qualification” level.
Binder jetting uses an industrial print head to quickly deposit a liquid bonding agent onto a thin layer of powdered particles, either metal, sand, ceramics or composites. The process is repeated, layer by layer, until the object is complete. Depending on the material being printed, additional post-processing may be necessary.
Key to binder technology is optimizing the machines, binders, powders and post-processing steps to work together to deliver the precise densities, material properties and metallurgy the market wants with every powder is serious engineering work.
However, customers can print with most powders and binders if the quality meets their own standards, even though those standards are different than ExOne’s broad commercial-readiness standard. Usually, these requirements are specific to a certain application and not general to the overall marketplace. With binder jet 3D printing, you can print almost any powder if it works with a binder and delivers the final material properties required.
In addition to the new materials, ExOne is also launching a new qualification category called “Customer-Qualified.” This means the material is printable on ExOne machines and that customers are successfully printing it today for their own applications. Materials on this list include cobalt chrome, copper, H13 Tool Steel, Inconel 625, titanium and tungsten heavy alloy. Customers are also printing ceramics such as alumina, carbon, natural and synthetic sands, silicon carbide, alone or infiltrated with silicon, tungsten carbide-cobalt.
The company also previously announced work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory on boron carbide infiltrated with aluminum.
Virginia Tech Prof. Chris Williams, Ph.D., has been 3D printing copper on ExOne machines since 2015, starting with the ExOne R2 machine, launched in 2003, and now also with an Innovent+, a machine launched in 2018 for high-density metals printing.
Prof. Williams’ work on the subject of copper printing with ExOne binder jet printers has been published in at least three peer-reviewed journals, including Design & Materials, Additive Manufacturing, and Procedia Manufacturing.
ExOne hasn’t fully qualified copper for its top-tier status, but it will likely work for many customer applications – depending on the specific requirements needed.