July 14, 2015
Sometimes when a paper is clear in its aims, carefully constructed and confidently executed, it wows you. You could experience that pleasure while reading the white paper at the far end of today’s Check it Out link. You’ll definitely learn some good stuff.
The subtitle of “Rapid Manufacturing for Metals” flawlessly describes this paper from Proto Labs: “Exploring Material Selections and Manufacturing Methods for Metal Parts.” Neither a metallurgist’s handbook nor a machinist’s textbook, this paper offers a concise walkthrough of the materials and processes for rapid metal part fabrication. It eschews technical gobbledygook for clarity, but assumes that you have an understanding of one or more of the metals and processes. Nonetheless, it’s readable by the geek in accounting trying to learn about the stuff they overhear engineers talking about.
A benefit here is that Proto Labs offers an assortment of metals in its manufacturing services, which include electrical discharge machining (EDM), metal injection molding (MIM), direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) and computer numerically controlled (CNC) milling. They deploy all kinds of this equipment in multiples. They also do plastics, which are not covered here.
That versatility is important to know. It means the paper doesn’t push any technology or material or trash talk others. You simply get a fair account of your metal options and fabrication processes, enabling you to better decide what’s right for your prototypes or low-volume production runs.
So, what will you find inside?
The paper first broadly categorizes metals as either hard, such as steel and titanium, or soft like aluminum and brass. It discusses the benefits of each material, maybe strength or lighter weight, and general best-use application areas, like stainless steel for temperature resistance. It then turns to manufacturing processes – machining, casting and molding and 3D printing. Again, it explains the benefits of a particular process, such as using DMLS for impossible to machine parts.
Each category, whether metal- or process-centric, gets a separate discussion. Intriguing tidbits abound. In the part on casting and molding, for example, there’s a riff on thixomolding, a process used only for magnesium parts.
A section on methods for post-processing metals completes the paper. Many included images of parts and machinery enhance the overall presentation.
“Rapid Manufacturing for Metals: Exploring Material Selections and Manufacturing Methods for Metal Parts,” quite simply, is an agreeable and edifying read. Hit today’s Check it Out link, download your complimentary copy and enjoy.
Thanks, Pal. – Lockwood
Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering