Toshiba and Toshiba Machine Develop 3D Metal PrinterOver Ten Times Faster Fabrication Speed than Current Method
TOKYO— Toshiba Corporation (Toshiba) and Toshiba Machine Co., Ltd. (Toshiba Machine) have jointly developed a prototype of a three-dimensional (3D) metal printer that delivers fabrication speeds more than 10 times faster than that of powder bed fusion printers, the most widely used methodology for metal sintering* The new printer will be showcased at “Monozukuri Matching Japan 2015” at Tokyo Big Sight from December 2 to 4.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, creates objects by depositing successive layers of material on a substrate, in a way analogous to inkjet printing. However, while inket printing is 2D, 3D printing can translate computer-aided design (CAD) plans into three-dimensional objects, building multiple layers into highly complex shapes and geometries.
Toshiba’s new 3D printer uses laser metal deposition (LMD) technology that deposits powdered metal and delivers a laser beam in tandem. The laser heats the powder and sinters it, so that it fuses into a shaped agglomeration. The key to its high speed operation is a new nozzle based on Toshiba’s know-how in fluid simulation technology. The nozzle reduces the area to which metal particles are injected, and the laser beam focuses very precisely on the tiny area covered by the powder. The prototype achieves a fabrication speed of 110cc an hour with an 800-watt laser output, and can build larger structures at a lower cost than current methods*. The printer works with a wide range of materials, including stainless steel, Inconel® and iron.
Toshiba and Toshiba Machine will continue development on the prototype to secure further increases in fabrication speed and resolution, and to fine-tune interfacing with 3D CAD software. The companies aim to bring the printer into practical use in or after 2017.
Toshiba Machine will manufacture the LMD 3D printers and market them to customers, along with its computer-controlled machine tools, as a means to create value for customers. Toshiba will use LMD 3D printers to manufacture parts for social infrastructure systems, in order to improve production efficiency.
The 3D metal printer development project is sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) under its program “Technological Development for Next-Generation Industrial 3D Printers and Ultra-High-Precision 3D Shaping Systems.”
Note: Powder bed fusion technique uses a laser beam to selectively heat and fuse (sinter) a layer of metal particles on a bed of metal powder. Power bed fusion transforms raw material into a desired shape layer by layer, by repeating the process of depositing power on a substrate and sintering it.
*Inconel® is a registered trademark of Special Metals Corporation group of Companies.