Combining cutting-edge hardware with laser-focused software, The University of Manchester have developed a 3D printing solution that is a cut above the rest

Currently, 3D printing involving metals is hampered by a lack of compatibility of multiple materials, reducing the selection of materials able to be used, and limiting the complexity of shapes that can be created. Furthermore, different materials are unable to be printed on the same layer without the inevitability of material contamination. This has resulted in software that is solely designed for single material printing, and even small components requiring a large volume of materials.

A metal model of the Eiffel Tower, created using University of Manchester 3D printing.
Eiffel Tower – material transits from Cu10Sn at the bottom to 316L at top gradually
A 3D-printed multi-colour, multi-material model of the Sphinx.
Sphinx – multi-material/multi-colour (30mm)
A 10mm turbine disk 3D printed at The University of Manchester.
 Turbine disk (10mm)
A close-up of a University of Manchester 3D printed turbine disk.Turbine Disk – partially enlarged (2mm)

 

The University of Manchester have developed a 3D printer capable of utilising multiple materials, optimising the delivery of certain materials, such as metals, ceramics, and polymers. The combined powder-bed and point by point multiple material delivery using selective laser melting maximises the functionality of each material. This results in high integrated multi-functional components using minimal materials and processes.

This state-of-the-art design reduces raw material wastage through decreasing material contamination and allowing materials to be reused and recycled. The University of Manchester have developed new software tools for use with multiple materials, and this more sophisticated system minimises restrictions on designs, allowing for more freedom in what can be printed.

This gives the potential to create combinations/blends of materials with complimentary performance characteristics for aerospace application, such as components for rocket engines. It also has the benefit of enabling customer-specific products, such as jewellery, and medical and dental implants.