The US-based Precision Optical Manufacturing company has introduced a metal rapid prototyping technique that enables production of fully dense metal prototypes directly from native CAD file formats.
The Direct Metal Prototyping process, akin to stereolithographic technology, enables users to produce fully functional, 100% dense, near net-shaped parts from tool steels, aluminium, copper and other metallic materials directly from a solid model.
The process creates a part by focusing a laser beam onto a metallic workpiece or preformed part. This creates a molten pool of metal into which a stream of metallic powder is injected increasing the size of the molten pool. By moving the laser and tracing out a pattern defined by the CAD geometry, the prototype part is formed one layer at a time.
With this process and its translating laser energy source, the molten pool solidifies at a rapid rate, resulting in a fully dense, refined microstructure.
The metal composition can also be altered `on-the fly’ by injecting different metal powders into the melt pool. It is thought that this process could dramatically reduce product development time cycle and time-to-market.
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