Additive manufacturing is revolutionising manufacturing in a number of industries, yet it is still subject to porosity, a well-known challenge that causes leak paths and can lead to high value components being scrapped. In this article, Dr. Mark Cross of Ultraseal International Group talks about how additive printing consultancy Graphite AM overcame this issue.
Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, enables the fast and cost-effective production of complex high-quality components in a range of materials. The rise of this technology has been fast, and it is rapidly altering the manufacturing landscape.
According to Deloitte, additive manufacturing is empowering Industry 4.0. In 2019, the global additive manufacturing market size was valued at $11.58 billion and is predicted to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) exceeding 14 percent from 2020 to 2027, according to Grand View Research.
3D printing has evolved from a revolutionary technology into a mainstream process and is now being used across a wide range of industries. From aerospace relying on additive manufacturing for functional aircraft components to automotive using it for grips, jigs and fixtures, 3D printing has seen a significant growth in applications and it’s easy to see why.
Thanks to its clean and simple process, 3D printing produces high quality components and removes the need for expensive tooling and machining. Additive manufacturing is not only ideal for small and intricate parts, but it is also a cost-effective and quick way to produce prototypes, one-offs and components in low volumes.
A Pinhole Porosity Problem
However, as the manufacturing technology evolves, a legacy challenge still remains: porosity. During additive manufacturing, microscopic holes that are invisible to the naked eye are formed within the body of the part. Porosity is an inherent issue with diecast components and while the cause and application might be different, the end result is always the same—and that is scrappage.
Typically, porosity is caused either by the printing process itself, or by the powder used in the process. These microscopic voids reduce the density of components, leading to cracks, leaks and fatigue. For parts that go into applications which need to be air or fluid tight – for example in fuel or cooling systems—this can be an especially critical issue.
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