1 Producing Metal Parts CNC vs. Additive Manufacturing
2 METAL KIT 2 Introduction This Kit discusses how to select the right manufacturing process for metal parts by comparing CNC and Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies. A step-by-step summary is included at the end. Contents Executive Summary CNC Additive Manufacturing (AM) Powder Bed Fusion Binder Jetting Metal Technologies Compared Powder Bed Fusion vs. Binder Jetting CNC vs. Additive Manufacturing How-to get started 3D Hubs Resources
3 METAL KIT 3 Executive Summary When choosing between CNC and Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies for producing metal parts, there s a few simple guidelines that can be applied to the decision making process. As a rule of thumb, all parts that can be machined with limited effort should generally be CNC machined. It usually only makes sense to apply Additive Manufacturing in cases where traditional methods are not able to produce the part, e.g. for highly complex geometries. If high quantities of the part are needed, more traditional methods, such as Investment and Die Casting are generally the most price competitive options. The following diagram serves as a highly simplified reference for decision making.
4 METAL KIT 4 The table below compares specifications of CNC against the two most common AM technologies for producing metal parts. CNC Powder Bed Fusion Binder Jetting Tolerance +/ / /-.008 Minimum wall thickness Maximum part size Milling: 78 x 32 x 40 Lathe: 20 diameter 9 x 6 x 6 15 x 14 x 29 Strengths / Weaknesses + Low Cost + Highly accurate + Great mechanical properties + Large parts - No complex geometries + Highly accurate + Great mechanical properties + Complex geometries - High cost - Small parts only + Low cost + Large parts + Complex geometries ~ Good mechanical properties - Limited accuracy
5 METAL KIT 5 CNC Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machining is a high speed, high precision subtractive manufacturing technology. The process typically begins with a solid block of material (blank) and, using a variety of sharp rotating tools or cutters, removes material to achieve the required final shape. CNC machines come in essentially two standard types: milling machines and lathes (for circular geometries). CNC Milling machine CNC Lathe machine
6 METAL KIT 6 CNC machining is one of the most popular methods for both one-off and low-volume production of metal parts, offering excellent repeatability and high precision at a very competitive price. There are a number of limitations that must be considered when designing parts for CNC machining, including tool access and clearances, hold or mount points, as well as the inability to machine square corners due to tool geometry. For more complex parts therefore, CNC machining becomes less efficient, as the machine setup and cutting time increase. Also, at higher volumes, e.g. runs over 250 parts, alternative methods of production tend to become more price competitive. Specifications Tolerance Finish Minimum wall thickness Maximum part size - Milling Maximum part size - Lathe +/-.005 (0.125mm) As machined (~0.75mm) 78 (200cm) x 32 (80cm) x 40 (100cm) 20 (50cm) diameter Table: Standard specifications for CNC machining on 3D Hubs. Tighter tolerances, up to +/-.001 (0.025mm), are available when specifying the project. Secondary surface treatments, such as bead blasting, anodizing, and powder coating can all be added upon request. Materials Aluminum 6061 Stainless steel 304 Brass C High machinability, good strength to weight ratio High durability, good strength and fatigue properties Good machinability, ideal for moving parts Table: CNC materials available at 3D Hubs
7 METAL KIT 7 When choosing a material for your design it is useful to consider the following: Material hardness: softer metals (e.g. aluminum or brass) require less machine time and thus have lower machining cost than harder materials (e.g. stainless steel). Generally, aluminum will machine 2 times faster than stainless steel. Blank size: the material blank is the size of the solid material that is used to create the part. As a rule of thumb, the blank dimensions are a minimum of (3mm) larger than the part. Using a blank that is of standard stock sizing, e.g. 1 x 1 x 1 (thus a maximum part size of x x ) can significantly reduce the cost of a part. Finishes As Machined Bead Blast Anodizing Type II Anodizing Type III Powder Coat ~125 RA µin (3.2 RA µm). Minor tool marks will be visible on the part. Surface finish requirements can be increased to 63, 32, or 16 RA µin. Matte finish with light texture is achieved by blowing small glass beads against the part. Corrosion resistant finish. A variety of different colors can be applied when anodizing. Adds a wear resistant layer on top of the corrosion resistance of Type II. Strong, wear and corrosion resistant finish, that is more durable than the methods mentioned above. Powder coat finishing are available in large range of colors. Table: finishing options for CNC machining parts. Other finishing options, like chrome plating or knurling, are available upon request.
8 METAL KIT 8 CNC aluminum part with as machined finish The same CNC aluminum part after red Anodized Type II finish. Chrome plating is added to the visible part, not in red.
9 METAL KIT A CNC steel part made using a lathe Assembled CNC aluminum part with As Machined finish 9
10 METAL KIT 10 Additive Manufacturing (AM) Producing metal part using Additive Manufacturing (AM) can be achieved using 2 fundamentally different technologies: Powder Bed Fusion and Binder Jetting. As their specifications and applications differ, both will be treated separately. More niche specific metal AM technologies such as Direct Energy Deposition (DED) are outside the scope of this document. Powder Bed Fusion Powder Bed Fusion technologies use a thermal source to induce fusion between powder particles, one layer at a time, in order to build up a solid part. Powder Bed Fusion metal AM machines can further be divided into 3 different types: Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS): fuses together metal powder on a molecular level, using a laser. DMLS only works with metal alloys. Selective Laser Melting (SLM): laser achieves a full melt of the powder. Resulting parts have a single melting temperature. Because of this, SLM is used to produce parts from single element metals, such as Titanium. Electron Beam Melting (EBM): uses a high energy beam (electrons) rather than a laser (photons) to induce fusion between metal powder particles. Compared to SLM and DMLS, EBM has a generally superior build rate because of its higher energy density. Minimum feature size, layer thickness and surface finish are typically larger. For simplicity reasons, in this document, all Powder Bed Fusion technologies are treated equally.
11 METAL KIT 11 Like CNC machining, Powder Bed Fusion technologies are mould-less, so initial setup cost per part are limited. Unlike CNC, no blank is needed to subtract material from (hence the name Additive ), allowing Powder Bed Fusion to print highly complex geometries that traditional manufacturing techniques are unable to produce. Applications include topographical optimizations to achieve weight reduction (e.g. Aerospace) or custom organic shapes (e.g. Medical and dental applications). The main limitations for metal Powder Bed Fusion are cost and build size. Specifications Tolerance Positive features Negative features Minimum wall thickness Maximum part size +/-.004 (0.102mm) +/ (0.025mm mm) +/ (0.102mm mm) ~0.016 (0.4mm) ~ 9 (23cm) x 6 (15cm) x 6 (15cm) Table: Standard specifications for metal Powder Bed Fusion on 3D Hubs are as follows. Values are typical and the exact tolerances are design dependent. It is important to note that maximum part sizes are significantly smaller with Powder Bed Fusion than with alternative technologies.
12 METAL KIT 12 Materials Aluminum Stainless steel Titanium Inconel High strength to weight ratio High durability, good strength and fatigue Extreme strength to weight ratio, Higher cost High temperature and corrosion resistant Table: AM Powder Bed Fusion metals available at 3D Hubs The amount of material used is the main cost driver for Powder Bed Fusion. It is advised that parts are specifically designed for Powder Bed Fusion in order to be cost effective. A complex Aluminum bracket produced via Powder Bed Fusion with a design optimized for weight reduction and minimal cost.
13 METAL KIT 13 Finishes As printed Media blast Micro-polishing Metal plating Removal of support material from a printed part and smoothing out surface finish. ~350 RA µin (8.75 RA µm). Matte finish with light texture is achieved by blowing small beads (bead material depends on part material) against the part. After media blasting the surface finish is improved to 63 Ra µin (1.6 Ra µm). Used for demanding surface finish requirements such as blades on gas turbine engines to improve resistance to corrosion and reduce friction. The surface finish can be improved to <32 Ra µin(<0.8 Ra µm). Plating of metals is desirable to augment the characteristics of the part. Improvements could include corrosion and heat resistance, increased strength, hardness, conduction or aesthetics. Table: finishing options for CNC machining parts. Other finishing options, like chrome plating or knurling, are available upon request. Powder removal after printing. Build plate contains 20 custom parts in steel.
14 METAL KIT 14 Binder Jetting Binder Jetting is the process of printing a binding agent onto a powder bed to form a part one layer at a time. Unlike Powder Bed Fusion, which uses a laser to sinter powder, binder jetting moves a print head over the powder surface depositing droplets that bind (glue) the powder particles together to produce the final part. Once a layer has been printed, the powder bed is lowered and a new layer of powder is spread over the recently printed layer. This process is repeated until a solid part is generated. Binder Jetting is of significantly lower cost (by several orders of magnitude) than Powder Bed Fusion and allows for very large parts (e.g. die casts) to be printed. Because Binder Jetting utilizes a polymer binding agent to bind the metal powder, functional metal parts can only be produced via secondary processes. Without these, metal Binder Jetting parts have poor mechanical properties. Once parts are removed from the powder bed, they are placed in a furnace where the binder is burnt out, leaving voids throughout the part. Bronze is then used to infiltrate the voids within the print resulting in a high density part with improved mechanical properties. Parts can also be produced without infiltration by sintering in a furnace to a high density. Even with these processes, Binder Jetted parts generally have lesser mechanical properties than parts created through Powder Bed Fusion.
15 METAL KIT 15 Thermal shrinkage occurs during infiltration or sintering, typically 0.8-2%, which is unpredictable and non-uniform. As a general rule, it is advised to scale up designs by ~1.5% to account for shrinkage. Because of this, Binder Jetting is the least dimensional accurate technology presented in this document. Binder Jetted parts tend to have a matte gray-to-bronze finish with external surfaces smoothed via tumbling. Binder Jetted metal parts. Before secondary processes (left) and after infiltration and tumbling (right). Image courtesy of ExOne. Specifications Tolerance Minimum wall thickness Maximum part size (0.2mm) 0.08 (2mm) 15 (38cm) x 14 (36cm) x 29 (74cm) Table: Standard specifications for metal Binder Jetting on 3D Hubs are as follows:
16 METAL KIT 16 Materials Stainless steel-bronze matrix (infiltrated) Stainless steel (sintered) Inconel alloy (sintered) Cobalt / chrome (sintered) Tungsten carbide (sintered) Excellent mechanical properties, can be machined Corrosion resistance, excellent mechanical properties Good temperature resistance, excellent mechanical properties, high chemical resistance Good wear resistance, high melting point Very hard. Used for the production of cutting tools Finishes Binder Jetted metal parts that make use of infiltration or sintering are able to be post processed using the same techniques as described for Powder Bed Fusion; media blasting, micro-polishing, and metal plating. A functional metal part in stainless steel-bronze matrix. Part geometry is less complex than for Powder Bed Fusion as the requirements to save material are less relevant. Image courtesy of ExOne.
17 METAL KIT Binder Jetting part taken out of the powder. Image courtesy of ExOne. 17
18 METAL KIT 18 Metal Technologies Compared Powder Bed Fusion vs. Binder Jetting When deciding between Powder Bed Fusion and Binder Jetting the trade off is generally cost vs. dimensional and mechanical properties. Binder Jetting metal parts can be up to 10x cheaper than Powder Bed Fusion. However, the dimensional tolerances, as well as the mechanical properties generally aren t as good. Also, if the size of a part is outside the scope of Powder Bed Fusion and Additive Manufacturing is the technology of choice, Binder Jetting is generally the only option. Tolerance Maximum Part Size Powder Bed Fusion +/ (0.1mm) 9 (23cm) x 6 (15cm) x 6 (15cm) Binder Jetting +/ (0.2mm) 15 (38cm) x 14 (36cm) x 29 (74cm) Strength / Weakness + Highly accurate + Great mechanical properties - High cost - Limited part size + Low cost + Very large parts ~ Good mechanical properties - Limited accuracy
19 METAL KIT 19 CNC vs. Additive Manufacturing The differences between Powder Bed Fusion and Binder Jetting are less relevant when comparing to CNC machining. For simplicity reasons, the comparison with CNC is done with Additive Manufacturing metal in general. Generally, a part that can be machined with little effort should generally be machined. It usually only makes sense to apply Additive Manufacturing in cases where five axis milling or multiple clamping positions are required or traditional methods are simply not able to produce the part at all. CNC machining benefits from the tightest tolerances, a wide variety of available materials and finishing options, and fast turn-around globally. However, if a design has complex geometries, or high value materials are required (less attractive for subtractive methods), one might consider AM as the best solution. In a bigger context, there are alternative methods of production. If, for example, parts are hard to machine, but volumes are high, then Investment Casting using 3D printed patterns can be a good solution for competitive pricing. For even higher volumes, but simpler geometries, Die Casting is likely the best option. A detailed treatment of both Investment- and Die casting is outside the scope of this document. The position of each production method on against volume and complexity of the geometry. The $ signs are relative indicators of cost per part
20 METAL KIT 20 How-to get started 3D Hubs offers all 3 metal production technologies discussed in this document through its Managed Services. Additionally, sheet metal fabrication is also offered. It s easy to get started and request a free quote: 1. Go to the 3D Hubs Managed Services page: 3dhubs.com/managed-services 2. Request a free quote 3. Upload your files and fill in the details of your project We ll get back in touch with a free quote within 24h after submitting the form. Still unsure about your design and not ready to go into production? You can create a low-cost 3D printed plastic prototype and get it printed within 24h.
21 METAL KIT 21 3D Hubs Resources Get an instant quote for metal parts Online: Supported File Types: Capabilities: Upload your CAD file at 3dhubs.com/managed-services.step,.stp,.iges,.x_t,.x_b,.sldrpt,.ipt,.3dxml,.prt,.sat,.cgr,.3dm,.catpart,.scad (max file size: 250 MB) All uploads are secure and confidential Additive manufacturing (3D printing), CNC Machining, Sheet Metal Fabrication, Investment Casting. About 3D Hubs 3D Hubs is the world s largest network of manufacturing services. Through this network of local service providers, 3D Hubs finds the fastest and most price competitive manufacturing solution near you, making it easy to do custom prototyping and short production runs. Contact Address: Frederiksplein 42, 1017 XN, Amsterdam
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