Prodways Announces New Metal Deposition Technology for Metal 3D Printing

Prodways has expanded its materials portfolio to include metals with a new metal deposition technology.

Ahead of Le Bourget Paris Air Show, French 3D printer manufacturer Prodways Group has announced a new metal 3D printing technology, referred to by the company as Rapid Additive Forging (RAF), for the production of large-scale metal parts. This technology expands the company’s portfolio to include metal deposition, in addition to forms of vat photopolymerization and selective laser sintering.

From what can be gathered from the company’s announcement, RAF is a form of directed energy deposition that relies on a robot equipped with a metal deposition head to print metal within an inert gas chamber. Metal is deposited layer by layer until a near net shape object is complete within just a few hours. These metal “blanks” are then machined to final specifications.

On the left, a 3D-printed metal part made with RAF. On the right, that part machined to specification. (Image courtesy of Prodways.)

On the left, a 3D-printed metal part made with RAF. On the right, that part machined to specification. (Image courtesy of Prodways.)

Though metal deposition technologies may not be capable of producing the same geometrically complex components possible with selective laser melting, they can produce large, near net shape metal parts quickly. This makes it possible to avoid the significant lead times, sometimes over one year in duration, and reduce material waste. Prodways points out that typical machining of metal parts can result in 95 percent material waste.

For this reason, companies Norsk Titanium and Sciaky have been working with aerospace manufacturers to develop large-scale metal parts using their own forms of directed energy deposition technologies.

The platform was developed in partnership with Commercy Robotique, a subsidiary owned by Prodways parent company Group Gorgé. Commercy Robotique has over 40 years of experience with robotic welding and Prodways has filed a patent for this new metal 3D printing technology.

So far, Prodways has tested the platform with a variety of metals with a particular focus on titanium for use in aerospace applications. The current third generation of the technology is capable of printing parts of over 70 cm (27.6 in) in size, but the company is working on a version that can print objects as large as 2m (6.6 ft).

The company suggests that RAF can produce metal parts without porosity and with greater mechanical resistance than SLM or electron beam melted parts. Prodways also claims that aerospace players believe it could be applied to 50 percent of titanium aircraft parts and reduce the cost by 50 percent.

Prodways plans to release further information about RAF in the future, but the addition of such a technology to the company’s portfolio could be quite significant. Prodways was founded on its own brand of digital light processing (DLP) known as MOVINGLight, which features a DLP projector mounted above a vat of photosensitive polymer resin used to harden large swaths of material into physical objects.

The company was able to demonstrate MOVINGLight as a continuous DLP technology, as well, making it possible to 3D print plastic parts even more quickly than Carbon’s famously fast continuous liquid interface production platforms.

In addition to selective laser sintering (SLS) startup Norge Systems, Prodways has since formed partnerships with Farsoon Technologies and 3DCeram to bring on board SLS and ceramic DLP 3D printing. With its ceramic 3D printing platform, Prodways was able to demonstrate the ability to 3D print photosensitive resins loaded with metal particles that can be subsequently sintered in a furnace to create dense metal parts.

Farsoon already manufactures SLM machines and its possible that Prodways could begin selling its own brand of SLM systems. Along with metal DLP, which may soon rise in popularity, Prodways could have among the most diverse metal 3D printing portfolios on the market. This would add to its polymer technologies, SLS and DLP, to give the company one of the more diverse AM technology portfolios overall.

In other words, it’s a very exciting time for the French manufacturer, particularly as it heads to target more aggressively the aerospace sector. To learn more about that strategy, read our recent interview with Group Gorgé CEO Raphaël Gorgé.

To learn more about Prodways, visit the company website.