London-based company, IT IS 3D, is developing a low-cost metal 3D printing system in collaboration with Cranfield University researchers, based on wire deposition technology.
With existing additive manufacturing machines costing between $300,000 and $1.5 million, IT IS 3D hopes to launch the new technology by the end of 2016 for prices under $60,000, making the technology accessible to far more companies around the world, asserts IT IS 3D’s CEO Martin Stevens:
“We hope to take this sophisticated technology and turn it into something that is affordable to a large range of companies, to provide them with a means of prototyping or creating low volume, special purpose parts, using metal 3D printing.”
The wire deposition process, also known as wire and arc additive manufacturing (WAAM), uses a robot to deposit layers of molten metal from a wire through a welding head onto a surface. The technique, developed at Cranfield University, is being explored by the aerospace and defense industries as it is capable of producing large components much more rapidly than processes such as powder and laser deposition.
Nevertheless, the technique currently involves the use of expensive robots such as those used in the automotive industry, and costly welding generators – something Stevens and the Cranfield researchers are presently working on in order to make their printing system more budget-friendly.
“We and Cranfield University plan to look at much lower cost, probably cartesian [linear] robots,” Steven said. “When used alongside lower cost welding systems – and we’re investigating those at the moment to see which can produce the best results – we believe we can get the cost down to a level that no other technology can reach at the moment.”
Image credits: gea-consulting.com