New AM materials are generating numerous business opportunities

Text: Thomas Masuch. Photos: Mesago/Thomas Klerx, LPW

In additive manufacturing, materials play the same role as fresh, aromatic ingredients do for a good cook: Materials are not merely the basis for a product – they also determine its properties. Certain component requirements can be met only using suitable and, in some cases, highly specialized materials. This makes it all the more important for users to be aware of the latest developments and to explore the entire production process. The formnext exhibition is an excellent place to do this.

Additive manufacturing is now firmly established in industry and has an ever-increasing area of application, ranging from the aerospace industry, the sporting goods industry and medical technology through to the automotive sector and toolmaking. Developments in the field of materials make an important contribution here. The number of 3D-printable materials is growing steadily. In conjunction with new, highly specialized materials, this enables components to be produced with forms that until recently were unthinkable.

The most commonly used metals in industrial 3D printing are steels, titanium, and aluminum. In addition, there are special developments such as high-manganese steel or case-hardenable steel. Other metals, such as gold or copper, are also increasingly being processed additively: for example, in the jewelry industry or in the energy sector. Some additive manufacturing plants even enable different powders to be mixed during the process so that a flowing alloy can be produced.

many different plastics

Alongside ceramics, many different plastics are available for additive manufacturing. These range from transparent or elastic plastics to photopolymers with good heat-deflection properties for use in toolmaking. 3D printing of full-color components in various materials is now also possible and is deployed in the construction of prototypes in automobile manufacturing, for example.

Plastics are generally associated with a specific manufacturing method (FDM, SLS, stereolithography, etc.). This is why it is important to learn about the special features of these technologies and find the right partners for them. The same applies to the use of metals.

ideal opportunities for users

As the leading international exhibition for additive manufacturing and state-of-the-art manufacturing processes, formnext, which will be held from 13–16 November 2018 in Frankfurt am Main, is the ideal place to find out about all the latest developments in the field of materials. Alongside manufacturers and suppliers of metal powders, plastics, and ceramics, the world’s leading suppliers of additive manufacturing systems and innovative companies from many other areas throughout the process chain will be showcasing their products and services at formnext.

A prerequisite for successfully using additive manufacturing is often extensive expertise spanning the entire production process – from design to additive manufacturing technology right through to post-processing and QA. With its vast array of companies, technologies and services, formnext offers ideal opportunities for users looking to get started with industrial 3D printing or to deploy additive technologies even more successfully.

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