Printing metals at 3D MetPrint: the fine details

Älmhult is a town in Kronoberg County in Småland, Sweden. It has a long and varied tradition of companies involved in production, both in reuse of aluminium and glass – companies you may or may not know of. However it is the birthplace and home to a company that you’ve certainly heard of – IKEA.

There’s another company located there that’s maybe not as famous as the Swedish furniture maker, but we’re certainly proud to count it as one of our key customers in the region. It’s a company called 3D MetPrint, and they manufacture additive metal components for the Scandinavian and Baltic markets. It’s a relatively young company, having been set up in 2016 by people who come from the automotive, machine and engineering industries.

In early September this year, we decided to pay them a visit. We were graciously met by Erling Svensson, the CEO. He took us through a few cases where they had delivered products for customers, the final results of which were quite remarkable.

After listening to Erling Svensson, we got the impression that this is a company that can produce just about anything as long as you hand them a CAD file. Perhaps this explains why they have customers across a variety of industries – from gearboxes to moulding tools to jewellery.

They use a metal printer called ProX 300 DMP from 3D Systems that can print in materials such as Maraging Steel, 17-4 PH, 316L, Aluminium, and CoCrMo.

We were happy (and just a little bit proud) to hear the CEO say that he is very pleased with their 3D Systems printer and the support and follow-up they receive from us at PLM Group, and from 3D Systems.

Here’s a typical workflow for a 3D print job at 3D MetPrint

1. The customer submits a .stl file for printing. In nine out of ten cases this is used directly, but if they see that improvements can be made (such as merging several parts into one), they inform and involve the customer. Customers are often not aware of the incredible possibilities of 3D printing compared to traditional production and are always happy when they get better products, faster.

2. When the model is ready, it is launched in the printing software. Here, support structures are added, the model is oriented in relation to how the part should lie in the print chamber and holes are inserted to provide an outlet for the surplus metal powder. This is a critical phase that determines how good the end product is. As Erling explains, “3D printing is a craft that one has to learn. Ultimately it is the designer with his experience that determines whether the finished product will be perfect or not”.

3. The finished print file is then transferred to the printer and the part is printed.

4. After printing, the part can be used directly from the printer. But sometimes it needs a bit of post-processing to smoothen the surfaces, etc., depending on the specifications given by the customer.

Erling informs us that it is important for them that customers get the final products with the best possible finish. Which is why, they do all the post-processing like removal of support structure, brushing, heat treatment and drilling, and even electro-galvanizing if required.

The author on the left, with Erling in the middle and PLM Group colleague Christoffer on the right.

The ProX 300 DMP printer in action.

Erling talks to my colleague Christoffer Wester about the different machines they have for finishing the 3D prints.

 

Erling explains how the deduction used to remove excess material from the parts works.

 

Examples of parts they have printed with their 3D system printer:

Turners Cube

 

Link with movable joints printed in one continuous section.

 

Hunting knife. Notice the nice details with a fox and a hare inside the handle.

 

Machine part with channels as small as 0.5mm in diameter.

 

We asked Erling what he’d like to emphasize when it came to 3D printing versus conventional production methods. His response was quick. “One can seriously reduce the time and get far better quality. Plus, we can accomplish things that were previously not possible – like merging several components to save assembly time, reduce weight, minimize wear and tear, etc.”

After an interesting day spent here, it was time to say goodbye to Älmhult and to 3D MetPrint. We thanked Erling for taking the time to meet us and wished MetPrint all the success in their future endeavours.

If you have the need to get a metal part or product printed, the folk at 3D MetPrint will be happy to help. Get in touch with them at 3dmetprint.com.

If you have questions, or you think 3D printing can be something for you and your company, we’re always happy to help.