3D printed metal is becoming an effective complement to sheet metal technology

Since the birth of 3D printing, for a long time, many people have been discussing whether 3D printing will replace CNC machining, sheet metal manufacturing and other processes in the future. In fact, it's almost impossible, at least for a long time to come. Judging from the current development trend, 3D printing has formed an effective combination with CNC machining and sheet metal manufacturing, making up for the defects of these two processes in forming limitations.

sheet metal processing is widely used in electrical and electronic, automotive, telecommunications, medical and other industries. sheet metal is the skeleton that supports and shapes a product, such as a car, computer or mobile phone. The design and manufacture of sheet metal parts is becoming a key stage in the development of new products, with the trend towards diversification and small batch production. Metal 3D printers can help simplify this process and reduce costs.

In the sheet Metal manufacturing process, various molds are often used. Taking automobile sheet metal parts as an example, punching dies, cutting dies, forming dies, separation dies, stamping dies, bending punches and other dies are used. Mold manufacturing is expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, it is not suitable for the production of small batches of sheet metal parts.

3D printed metal is becoming an effective complement to sheet technology  printing manufacturing CNC Punching 1

Therefore, when manufacturing sheet metal parts in small batches, many sheet metal factories use a combination of Laser Cutting and CNC Bending technology. The process does not require molds, is economical, has a short cycle, and is suitable for rapid production of plates with simple structures. But it can't do anything about some special-shaped sheet metal parts. At this point, you need 3D printing. For example, a car seat manufacturing company, at that time, they needed to make a set of newly designed seat samples within a week, but the matching molds were still in production. In addition, the seat set consists of 78 pieces with a thickness of 1.5 to 2.5 mm, and most of the parts are ribbed and raised. So CNC machining was not suitable, so they used 3D printing technology.

In another use case, a machine builder wants to produce a four-part muffler with a thickness of 0.73 mm for the outer shell and 0.6 mm for the intermediate structural area. The sheet metal structure of these four parts is too complex to be fabricated by cutting and bending. Because of its thin wall thickness, it cannot be manufactured by milling. So there are only two options, one is stamping and one is 3D printing. Stamping has the advantages of high precision and high degree of design function realization, but the mold production cycle is long and the cost is high. Metal 3D printing can be delivered in just 3 days, and the design features are fully realized.

Today, with the increasing variety of products, there is an increasing need for variety and small batches in the machining of parts. Therefore, many manufacturers generally believe that the integrated production mode of sheet metal manufacturing, CNC machining and 3D printing will be one of the mainstream modes of future manufacturing.

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