Metal Binder Jetting (MBJ) technology is revolutionizing the field of 3D printing, with a significant impact on metal manufacturing. This innovative process uses metal powder and a binding agent to produce complex and durable items.
In an interview with Cai DaoSheng, the Chairman of EASYMFG, he delves into the crucial aspects of MBJ and the strategic plans for 2024.
In his last discussion, the Chairman underscored the importance of teamwork within MBJ groups and the necessity for large-scale manufacturing examples to instill confidence in the industry. He also highlighted EASYMFG’s 2024 growth strategies, its portfolio, and provided suggestions on effective build box design.
He stated, “We are optimistic as we set our sights on 2024, recognizing both its opportunities and challenges. Binder Jetting Metal 3D printing technology is set to maintain its position at the forefront of the manufacturing industry’s digital transformation. Industry professionals need to constantly watch for changes in the market and adjust their strategies flexibly to stay competitive in this evolving sector.”
The critical role of powder materials
DaoSheng explained the powder material choice is pivotal in determining the final performance, cost, and overall success of the printing process in MBJ technology. While MBJ equipment manufacturers excel in mechanical, software, and process development, the progress of MBJ is hampered by a crucial missing piece: specialized powders. While options exist, they come with significant drawbacks.
For instance, conventional Metal Injection Molding (MIM) powders, often used as a substitute, offer poor flowability, hindering printing density and overall performance. On the other hand, gas-atomized powders offering better flow are expensive and prone to deformation during high-temperature sintering.
“As a result, EASYMFG plans to collaborate with powder suppliers to launch specialized MBJ powders in 2024. These powders will primarily include stainless steel, high-temperature alloys, and titanium alloys. Such powders will exhibit suitable flowability and higher tap density,” added DaoSheng.
Redefining binders for enhanced efficiency
DaoSheng believes binders play a critical role in MBJ technology, requiring low sintering residue, high bonding strength, stable printing, and resistance to printhead clogging. According to him, the unique challenges of MBJ technology, like heating during printing, present binder innovation opportunities.
“At present, EASYMFG’s commercialized binders reveal a three-directional permeation control within 0.05mm (twice the spacing at 1200 DPI). This happens to be why MBJ technology 3D-printed parts excel in Z-axis precision and have lower surface quality compared to Selective Laser Melting (SLM). The higher laser penetration depth with SLM results in less Z-axis accuracy and lower surface quality,” elaborated the Chairman.
The binders of the company undergo low-temperature curing (around 150°C) post print, which prevents solubility. The firm aims to eradicate the heating-curing, with an innovative binder set planned for a 2024 release for better efficiency and cost reduction. The firm is unlike other MBJ manufacturers that need low-temperature heating curing, as their focus is more on room-temperature printing and binder development without heating curing, which accentuates their dedication to efficient production.
Advancements in Metal Binder Jetting technology
DaoSheng shared, “Our EASYMFG team have more than 10 years of research and development experience in the field, and have thoroughly tested printhead from brands like Epson, Seiko, Ricoh, Xaar, Kyocera, etc.” The company has been involved in both independent and combined research and development with the Rapid Manufacturing Center of Huazhong University of Science and Technology. The final device has a closed-loop system covering all aspects of MBJ. The advancements made by EASYMFG encompass powder design, sintering theory, and varied material system development.
Major MBJ manufacturers like Markforged (Digit Metal) and Desktop Metal (ExOne) use the up-powder spreading method in production, each with their unique methodologies. EASYMFG uses a proprietary sieving and up-powder spreading technique in its models, improving density by 5-10%. The year 2024 will see a more focused approach on optimizing the powder spreading method, mainly to increase compatibility and decrease dust.
3D printed parts using MBJ technology. Photo via EASYMFG.
Global market dynamics and challenges
DaoSheng discussed the varying acceptance degrees of MBJ technology worldwide. It’s apparent that developed countries understand and accept the cost benefits and mass production capacity of MBJ technology more. However, China experiences challenges due to the strong hold of SLM technology in certain sectors.
The Chairman clarified misconceptions in China where companies like Apple and Huawei chose SLM technology for titanium alloy electronics, falsely implying that MBJ is inferior to SLM. In reality, Apple chose MBJ over SLM to manufacture its stainless steel watch case. DaoSheng highlighted a production-grade MBJ device can print nearly 2000 pieces per day, offering comparable speed and cost as compared to MIM, eliminating the need for molds.
“We hope that the leading MBJ pioneers facing delisting risks can successfully overcome their challenges and collaborate with other MBJ manufacturers like HP and GE to expand applications,” said DaoSheng.
EASYMFG’s going global strategy
Your HTML code is already clean and follows the instructions specified. There’s no need for any alterations.