Across a range of industries, 3D printing technology is changing what manufacturers, design engineers, and maintenance professionals think is possible. The old cost-benefit analysis formulas associate with industrial repair or prototype testing now must be re-examined in light of 3D printing’s expanded use. For industrial pump users, 3D printing has already proven itself as a cost-effective and highly reliable method for testing prototype designs—for parts ranging from impellers to nozzles to seals. However, as 3D printing technology providers, like ExOne, incorporate more diverse printing materials, the possibility exists for even great benefits and further applications.
A NEW STRATEGY FOR A NEW AGE
ExOne’s strategy is to expand its direct metal printing capabilities to increase opportunities in the industrial marketplace, having recently announced that it added iron infiltrated with bronze as a new 3D printing material and has also increased its suite of binder solutions for its 3D printing process. ExOne believes that the addition of iron to its metal portfolio will be well received by customers in the traditional markets for iron.
Iron is widely used in the manufacturing of machine tools, industrial parts, and general support structures. Part of the reason for iron’s popularity as an industrial product is its cost effectiveness. Manufacturing iron-based products using 3D printing technology allows for the direct creation of more intricate products than traditional manufacturing processes, and creates a more cost effective alternative to current 3D printing materials such as stainless steel. ExOne prioritized its development of iron infiltrated with bronze as a result of general customer interest and the breadth of the manufacturing market.
AN EXPANDED PORTFOLIO
To further develop its reach into the molds and casting industry, ExOne has added phenolic and sodium silicate to its suite of binders for use in its 3D printing process. Phenolic binder, used with ceramic sand in the 3D printing of molds and cores, offers customers three benefits:
- Casting higher heat alloys,
- Creating a higher strength mold or core, and
- Improving the quality of the casting due to reduced expansion of the mold or core.
These capabilities address challenges faced specifically by the pump industry, but they also apply to fields as different as automotive, aviation, or hydraulic/heavy equipment.
ExOne believes that sodium silicate binder will appeal to casting houses that are in search of cleaner environmental processes. It is further believed that the use of sodium silicate will reduce or eliminate the release of fumes and gas in the casting process, helping to reduce costs associated with air ventilation, and electrical and maintenance equipment. Environmentally responsible alternatives to old production methods are a growing concern for today’s industry leaders. Technological advances like the use of sodium silicate binder are just the beginning.
AN EXCITING FUTURE
ExOne’s Material Applications Laboratory (ExMAL) currently has a large number of other materials under various stages of development. ExOne has been focused on 3D printing for industrial customers since 2005, and in that time has seen an exponential increase in both the quality of what 3D printers are capable of and the creativity to which 3D printed products are applied. Over the next decade, the use of 3D printed products for industrial pumping applications will become as commonplace as electronic controls and maintenance systems—what was once may have been seen as an amenity will be valued as a necessity.
ExOne is excited to add iron infiltrated with bronze to its product offerings and its focus is to develop other metals and materials—at least one new material every six months. These priorities are defined by the needs of current customers and, as ExOne uncovers new opportunities with prospective customers, 3D printing will be ready for the challenge. ■
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rick Lucas is the chief technology officer for ExOne, a global provider of three-dimensional printing machines and printed products to industrial customers. For more information, visit www.exone.com.
MODERN PUMPING TODAY, August 2013
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