The consulting company Ampower published a new study that examines in detail metal 3D printing using sinter-based systems. The study was commissioned by 8 industrial companies.

Einordnung der sinterbasierten Metall 3D Druck Technologien in die bestehende Fertigungslandschaft.

Einordnung der sinterbasierten Metall 3D Druck Technologien in die bestehende Fertigungslandschaft.

In the over 40-page study, the so-called binder jetting and metal FDM processes are investigated and compared with today's established laser beam powder bed fusion (LB-PBF) and metal injection molding (MIM). The most important advantages are the significantly lower component costs of binder systems. Even today, cost reductions of approx. 40 % are possible for large quantities. Ampower anticipates potential cost reductions of over 80 % in the future. However, the new 3D printing technologies also have disadvantages compared to the conventional methods. The material properties do not reach the same level, which will lead to reservations in particular of manufacturers of highly loaded components. In addition, the complex sintering process hitherto harbors even high process risks, which, for example, lead to components that are distorted.

Matthias Schmidt-Lehr, co-author of the study and partner at Ampower, explains: "We expect that, especially in the automotive industry, binder technologies will prevail over high-volume cost-cutting as compared to laser beam powder bed fusion. Limitations on material properties and process risks can be offset by higher volumes and more complex process development. In demanding industries such as aerospace industry will continue to rely on  laser and electron beam processes. A short-term reorientation is not to be expected in these industries, especially as many OEMs have already set standards here and invested heavily."

In addition to the principles of cost structure and material properties, the study also presents guidelines for the design of components that can be manufactured using binder systems. For the study, over 50 samples from 8 different equipment manufacturers were evaluated. In addition to tensile tests and metallographic density analyzes, the surface roughness was measured, and a computer tomography analysis of the components was carried out.