Desktop Metal, Burlington, Massachusetts, USA, has added 316L stainless steel to the portfolio of materials for use on its Studio System for prototyping and low-volume production. A fully austenitic steel known for its corrosion resistance and excellent mechanical properties at extreme temperatures, 316L is well-suited for medical applications, as well as in highly demanding industrial environments, such as marine applications, food processing and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Ric Fulop, CEO and Co-founder of Desktop Metal, stated, “The addition of 316L enables engineers to print metal parts for a wide range of applications, including engine parts, laboratory equipment, pulp and paper manufacturing, medical devices, chemical and petrochemical processing, kitchen appliances, jewellery and even cryogenic tools and equipment. Teams are now able to iterate quickly on 316L prototypes, print complex geometries that are not possible with most manufacturing methods, and produce end-use parts cost-effectively.”
“As innovative companies across multiple industries adopt metal 3D printing, it’s critical to help accelerate this growth by expanding the portfolio of desired materials,” added Fulop. “Our materials science team is pushing the boundaries to enable printing metal parts for a growing range of applications in as wide a material portfolio as possible. The introduction of 316L is another step on our path to fundamentally change the way metal parts are designed and manufactured.”
Desktop Metal added that currently has more than thirty materials in development. It stated that it plans to introduce additional core metals to its portfolio throughout 2019, including tool steels, superalloys, and copper.
Early applications of 316L parts manufactured on the Studio System are said to have had promising results. Examples are:
Combustion fuel nozzle for marine tankers
The UHT Atomizer, manufactured by John Zink Hamworthy Combustion, is a fuel oil atomiser for use with atomising medium such as steam or air. It is typically installed in an HXG marine burner, which are used on steam propulsion boilers on LNG tankers. The objective of the atomiser is to improve low load burner performance, thus allowing the burner to run on a lower fuel oil throughput, saving operational costs when the vessel is manoeuvring in port.
316L stainless steel was said to have been a key material for the part due to its excellent mechanical properties at high temperatures. Additively manufactured on the Studio System, the atomiser can be radically redesigned to function in a more fuel-efficient manner than those produced through traditional metalworking means.
“Unlike many of the parts that John Zink designs and manufactures, this UHT Atomizer can only be fabricated utilising Additive Manufacturing. Design constraints of casting, machining and other methods that have bound our thinking for decades can be eliminated as Additive Manufacturing technology continues to evolve and progress,” commented Paul Newman, General Manager at John Zink Hamworthy Combustion.
Customised ring splint for medical use
Ring splints, a common medical device, are designed to immobilise or limit the range of motion of injured limbs. Ring splints are typically made of injection moulded plastic in standard sizes and parts often break after a relatively short lifetime. Due to traditional manufacturing methods, ring splints cannot be customised to improve fit.
By additively manufacturing ring splints in 316L, the devices can be custom-made on-demand to the desired size, with the added benefit of an aesthetic finish and increased durability. “Being able to 3D print medical grade steel parts like this finger splint, which is customised to the patient anatomy offers many advantages as compared to previous fabrication methods that take longer and may have lower efficacy,” explained Jim S Wu, MD, Chief of Musculoskeletal Radiology and Intervention at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School.
Impeller for harsh environments
Used across a variety of industries, impellers are an essential component of pumps to move fluid through systems. Impellers require complex vanes to optimise pressures in the pump for different fluids and applications. With chemical impellers, 316L is the choice material for its chemical resistance and mechanical properties at extreme temperatures, such as those found in cryogenic, salt water, and petroleum pumps.
These impellers are geometrically complex and prototypes typically cost $1,000 or more. However, with the Studio System, this impeller was additively manufactured in 316L for $70.
Ahmad Khowaiter, Chief Technology Officer of Saudi Aramco, stated, “The oil and gas industry will be a major beneficiary of advances in metal 3D printing. As the world’s premier energy and chemicals company and an early investor in Desktop Metal we look forward to advancing the state of the art and developing next generation applications where Additive Manufacturing can leapfrog existing manufacturing methods.”