ProX 300 Metal Printing
Kyle Maxey posted on October 31, 2014 |
As metal’s share in the AM market continues to grow, workhorse SLS systems like the ProX 300 p...

Most of the press coverage about 3D Printing has been devoted to machines that print plastic.
However, those aren’t the ones that are going to shake-up manufacturing. To aid in the production of
real parts, manufacturers need Additive Manufacturing (AM) systems that can process metal.
Metal 3D AM is still a fledgling field with less than 350 systems sold in 2013. Despite the low sales numbers, current metal printing systems can produce complex, high-quality, components that have a consistent consistency throughout the part. The ProX 300 is one such system, and is considered by many to the industry standard metal AM machine.

The ProX 300 has proven capable of building strong components for industrial applications. It has an
ample build chamber and an exacting selective laser sintering (SLS) process.

How the ProX 300 Works

The ProX 300 manufactures solid, chemically pure metal parts by training a laser to trace an outline of a CAD design across a fine metal powder bed. After each layer of a component is traced by the system's 500W fiber-laser a new layer of metal powder is deposited over the last and the laser begins the tracing process anew.

When it comes to materials, the ProX 300 comes ready to process a wide array of metals. While stainless steels, tooling steels, non-ferrous and super-alloys make up the core of the machine's material base the ProX can also build components using precious metals and alumina.

For users who are more interested in building high performance ceramics the ProX 300 is also able to build models using Cermet materials.

According to 3D Systems, manufacturer of the ProX 300, the metal AM system is capable of creating parts with a resolution of 20 µm in all three axes and can deliver tolerances that are compatible with the EN ISO 2768 fine machining standards.


The ProX 300 in Action

Since 2004 English Racing (ER) has been one of Washington's premiere tuning shops. Capable of squeezing every newton of power from an auto, ER knows that high performance requires precision components.

Not long ago, members of the English Racing team ran into Gary Cosmer, CEO of Metal Technologies Inc. (MTI). During their conversations ER's engineers told Gary that they were having a problem with excessive oil pressure in their half-mile racers. While ER's team knew that under driving their oil pump would be a solution to their high-pressure challenge, the tolerances and precision required by their part appeared to make the expense of machining it cost prohibitive. After learning of this concern, Cosmer thought that metal AM might provide the solution to their problem.

Intrigued by the possibilities of metal AM, English Racing and MTI sped into production in short order. With a 3D CAD model of their new oil pump gear in hand ER's team sent their file to MTI. After a few hours of machine setup MTI's ProX 300 was put into action. By the end of the day ER's first oil-pump component was ready.

Given the complex nature and tight tolerances required for their oil-pump gear metal machining, a part with such exacting standards would normally have taken weeks to produce. In fact, according to Cosmer, “Without the ProX 300 it would have taken at least 10 times as long to produce the initial prototype part.”

However, the true test of whether metal AM was the right choice for the production of their part doesn't happen on the shop floor, it happens inside the explosive guts of a racer. To English Racing's delight their new oil-pump gear performed flawlessly, even when pushed to its limits. “Part quality actually turned out better than I expected” said Zachery Morgan a tech and tuner at English Racing. “The timing belt wear is great on the part.”

But beyond the precise fit of their metal AM component, ER's team also achieved the mechanical results they were after. “ [Our] car was seeing a good 109 To 115 psi of oil pressure at higher RPM and we're down to 95 or 96 pounds. It also didn't compromise the idle oil pressure either. We went from 30 some-psi down to only 22 or 24.” Said Morgan. “There's no doubt to me that this oil pump gear is the ultimate solution in the stock oiling system.”



Quick Facts

Manufacturer: 3DSystems

Model: ProX 300

Material: Metal: Granular Powder Stainless steels, tool steels, non-ferrous alloys, super alloys and others. Ceramic : Cermet (Al2O3; TiO2) and others

Color: Dependent on material

Build Envelope: 250 x 250 x 300 mm ; (9.8 x 9.8 x 11.8 in)

Layer Thickness: 20 µm

Laser Power : 500W/Fiber laser

Laser Wavelength : 1070 nm

Axis Resolution: x=100 µm, y=100 µm, z=20 µm

Printer Dimensions: 2,400 x 2,199 x 2,000 mm (94.5 x 86.6 x 94.5 in)

Printer Weight: 5000 kg(s) (11,023 lbs)

Recommended Uses: Primary Industries: Automotive; Aerospace; Medical Technology; Dental; Patient Specific Implants; Jewelry

Machine Price: ~$700K – $1M


Who Should Use the ProJet ProX 300:
Anyone looking to produce metal parts that would be difficult to machine should consider the ProX 300.

With its ability to produce nearly any geometry with incredible precision the ProX has proven itself to be more than capable of building components that meet and exceed industrial standards.

Why Wouldn't You Use the ProJet ProX 300:
Those looking to mass-produce components should hold off on using the ProX 300, or any metal AM System. Given the ProX's relatively small build chamber it's difficult to pack a number of components into a single build unless they're quite small.

In addition to its inability to produce large quantities of parts on an industrial timeframe the ProX 300 also comes with a hefty price tag. With a starting price of $750K, a major investment is required to get the system up and running. Add to that concern the myriad safety requirements that are associated with in-house Metal AM, and seeking a service bureau that already operates a ProX 300 might be a better option than purchasing a system.

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