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EOS, a manufacturer of laser sintering systems, has announced that its EOSint M 270 system is being increasingly used for the production of parts in titanium.

Since the introduction of this material for the EOSint M 270 laser sintering system in 2006, both the machine technology and the titanium building process have led to the higher productivity and improved surface quality of parts, according to the company.

The technology is now used in a range of industrial and consumer applications.

As well as in the main markets of Europe, North America and Japan, there are now EOSint M 270 customers using titanium in India and South Africa and further systems ordered from South America and Australasia.

The customers include industrial end users, service-provider companies and research institutes.

Laser sintering is a suitable production method for many titanium applications; the conventional methods of casting, forging and machining are often difficult and expensive with titanium materials.

Following the e-manufacturing concept, titanium is also often used for high-value components produced in relatively small quantities.

The capability to build hollow and other lightweight structures by laser sintering enables users to improve the performance – and therefore the value – of titanium parts in weight-critical applications such as aerospace components.

Titanium alloys feature mechanical properties and corrosion resistance combined with a low specific weight and biocompatibility.

So far, the main applications for laser-sintered titanium are in medical and dental devices, aerospace, motor sports and the fashion industry.

The most commonly used material is EOS Titanium Ti64, which is the Ti6Al4V alloy in fine powder form.

Some medical cases use an extra-low-interstitial (ELI) version of this powder or a commercially pure titanium powder.

One company, Leader Italia, is establishing the series production of medical devices in titanium by laser sintering.

It has developed a range of dental implant screws called Tixos, which has been designed for production on EOSint M 270 systems using titanium material.

Conventionally, such screws are machined from solid metal.

In laser sintering, the screws are grown by melting the metal powder together so that material wastage is avoided.

The laser exposure is controlled to produce a hybrid structure comprising a fully dense body with a porous surface morphology, which eliminates the need for coating and offers enhanced bioactivity.

It is also a highly productive process.

Since there is no requirement for tooling, different types and sizes of screw can be produced within each job, according to demand.

Federico Rizzi, product design manager, said: ‘The innovative laser sintering of titanium enables us to computer-design and -manufacture dental implants and relative surfaces characterised by intercommunicating cavities that replicate the bone structure, which is impossible to obtain through traditional surface treating processes.’ Futurefactories, a UK-based company, has been applying the possibilities of e-manufacturing to the creation of fashion and consumer products.

In recent years, it has used laser sintering to create plastic lamps and chairs as well as metal jewellery products, which would typically be difficult or impossible to manufacture in other ways.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired a Tuber9 laser-sintered lamp for its permanent Design Collection.

With the Icon pendant, Futurefactories produced a limited edition of commercial products, each one unique but based on a common meta-design.

The design is said to be complex, comprising intertwining free-form shapes, and was implemented in titanium because it would be virtually impossible to produce by conventional methods; soldering, which is commonly used in jewellery, cannot be applied to titanium.

The laser-sintered pendants are built fully dense and polished to produce the desired aesthetic appearance.

Lionel T Dean of Futurefactories said: ‘DMLS [direct metal laser sintering] freed Futurefactories from the restrictions of the casting process and allowed the company to realise complex CAD [computer-aided-design] geometry directly in metal.’ Kerrie Luft, meanwhile, is a British footwear designer who studied at Cordwainers, part of the London College of Fashion.

She said: ‘I am creating unique shoes embracing new technologies such as laser sintering.

‘I utilise these technologies in a conceptual way.

‘My latest collection, Nouveau, defines the characteristics of Art Nouveau by rapid-prototyping titanium to create the complex geometry of the heel,’ added Luft.

The filigree structures of the high heels required a high-strength material and titanium was chosen.

The resulting shoes of her MA collection – with heel designs using laser-sintered titanium – were showcased at the Mall Galleries in London.

EOS Electro Optical Systems

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