Markforged, Watertown, Massachusetts, USA, has announced the launch of H13 tool steel for its desktop sized Metal X Additive Manufacturing system. It is stated that the availability of H13, also known as EN 1.2344 and SKD61 in Germany and Japan, will enable customers to manufacture parts for high-strength, high-temperature applications such as metal forming tools, dies and punches, and hardened inserts for fixtures, and even injection moulds with conformal cooling channels.
“We designed the Metal X system to change the way things are made, and the launch of H13 is the next step down that path,” stated Jon Reilly, Markforged VP of Product. “For manufacturers of high-volume plastic parts this is a game changer, significantly accelerating the speed at which they can bring new products to market.”
H13 is a hot-work tool steel, meaning that it retains high strength at elevated temperatures, and is known for exhibiting excellent hardness, resistance to thermal fatigue, high toughness, ductility, good abrasion resistance, and excellent through-hardenability. Additive Manufacturing in H13 will allow the production of parts with unique and complex geometries, something that traditionally would be very expensive and difficult to do. For example, printing an H13 injection mould that features conformal cooling channels would more effectively move heat away from the mould cavity and provide more uniform cooling, leading to less part-warp, shorter cycle times and higher throughput, and ultimately, lower operational costs.
Since 1982, San Francisco Bay Area-based Grant Engineering has been creating high-quality parts from injection-moulded plastics, producing millions of parts per year for their biotech, high tech, and consumer product industry customers. Grant is an early adopter of the Metal X printing system who also utilises the Mark 2 for printing end-of-arm tooling and fixtures. Since they received their Metal X system, the company has been printing 17-4 stainless steel injection moulds successfully, with minimal post-processing. Grant Engineering now hopes to further reduce their iteration time and cost for injection moulds printed in H13.
“Injection moulding is the core of what we do,” added Randy Grant, co-founder and co-owner of Grant Engineering. “Much like the robots and automation we’ve already introduced into our workflow, we see 3D printing – especially the Metal X – as a way to keep us hyper-competitive on cost and turnaround time while still delivering the precision and quality we’re known for. Being able to 3D print H13 should enable a lot of innovation with injection moulding, we can’t wait.”