Aluminum 3D printing: definition, technologies, results, the best services

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Aluminum 3D printing: definition

Aluminum is one of the materials that can be used in metal 3D printing.

It is a very interesting material for industrial applications of various kinds and its applications are relatively recent.

It was first produced in 1825, almost two centuries ago, by the Danish chemist Hans Christian Oersted.

At the time its very high cost, higher than that of gold, allowed its very limited use: it was mainly used for jewelery and cutlery.

Over the years, thanks to the reduction of production costs, this material has found widespread use even in 3D printing.

But what are its characteristics, what drives the use of this material?

  • DIFFUSION: it is a very widespread element in nature, the third most abundant after oxygen and silicon;
  • PRODUCTION COST and RECYCLABILITY: producing aluminum from scratch has an energy cost of 13 kWh/kg. It is a 100% recyclable material and this reduces the cost by 95%;
  • LIGHTNESS: for the same volume, aluminum weighs approximately 1/3 of copper and steel;
  • CORROSION RESISTANCE: Aluminum oxidizes immediately in contact with air and makes this material resistant to water and some chemical substances;
  • DUCTILITY AND MALLEABILITY: easily workable and suitable to undergo manufacturing processes at both high and low temperatures;
  • HIGH ELECTRICAL, THERMAL and SOUND CONDUCTIVITY: these elements greatly facilitate use in numerous industrial sectors.

The technologies

3D printing for aluminum can be used in the following processes:

  1. FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) for metals: aluminum is printed in a plastic matrix which is subsequently melted;
  2. DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering): the laser draws on the surface of an atomized metal powder, melting the part which subsequently solidifies;
  3. SLM (Selective Laser Melting): melts metal powders into a homogeneous mass rather than sintering them.
Aluminum 3D printing: control phase

DMLS and SLM aluminum 3D printing technologies are very similar in terms of performance and are used for the production of precise, complex and robust prototypes.

Furthermore, if it is useful to optimize the performance of the piece, it is possible to carry out post-production processes such as heat and surface treatments as well as milling.

Materials used for metal 3D printing

ALUMINUM: better performance in lightness, durable material with excellent thermal performance; furthermore it is weldable;

TITANIUM: light with excellent mechanical characteristics;

STAINLESS STEEL: strong, ductile and corrosion resistant;

In essence, aluminum is the lightest material with an excellent strength/weight ratio, ideal for both prototypes and final parts.

Our case studies

To date, additive technology is widely used for multiple applications in the aerospace, automotive and medical fields.

A concrete case is engine parts which are very often 3D printed, first of all as prototypes and in many cases as finished pieces.

3D printed aluminum engine

The use of metal 3D printing is also widespread in the medical field.

3D aluminum printing in the medical sector

Many of the projects we produce are covered by confidentiality agreements, making it difficult to show images relating to our customers’ know-how.

Our services

The feasibility assessment of a printed aluminum prototype always involves sharing a 3D file.

By our choice we do not offer the possibility of making instant online quotations; this is because we believe it is of fundamental importance to analyze every single file to visualize critical issues and define optimizations to share with the customer before starting each production.

This preliminary analysis also allows us to evaluate alternative processes to 3D printing, such as milling processes.

This is why our service always includes file verification, file preparation, production and any subsequent finishing processes.

Why choose us

Surely our value and our strength for the production of prototypes also in aluminum is the possibility of offering the best solution for the project.

This certainty comes from the fact that we can offer, in addition to 3D printing processes, also traditional CNC machining with 5-axis machining centres.

The comparison between 3D printing and workshop processes is fundamental especially for very complex geometries in order to understand the technology best suited to the project needs in terms of feasibility, production times and costs.

Another value is the design capacity which allows us to also intervene in co-design activities, this statement has reason to exist because 3D printing is useful if the component or product has been designed for this production process.

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