3D Printing…….No Longer Just for Rapid Prototyping

In the past decade, reduced equipment costs have made three-dimensional printing of plastics a cost-effective technique for rapid prototyping new designs. This tool allows the design engineer to not only see his design, but to actually hold it in his hand, compare it to mating parts for fit, and confirm ergonomics – all at a very low cost.

Depicted in the sketch below, the introduction of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) is an exciting advance in 3D printing technology for transducer manufacturers. 


DMLS is an additive manufacturing technology that produces metal prototype and production parts in a matter of hours. High end transducer manufacturers are now employing both 3D printing of plastics and DMLS in their design and manufacturing processes.

For example, when the design calls for exotic (and expensive) metals like titanium, 3D printing is used to create inexpensive plastic prototypes prior to ever putting a cutting tool to metal. Design revisions can be made and checked quickly and at much lower costs. Additionally, strain gages can be applied to the plastic prototypes to optimize transducer output by checking gage placement and transducer dimensions in advance of producing the first metal transducer.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering further enhances the prototyping design phase by allowing quick creation of fully functional transducers manufactured from the actual spring material. This new technology can also be used in low-volume production, or when traditional machining costs are high. A wide range of metals are compatible with the DMLS process including, Stainless Steel (17-4PH and 316), Aluminum, Inconel (625 and 718), Titanium Ti64, Cobalt Chrome Molybdenum (CoCrMo), and others.

Utilizing DMLS technology allows the transducer manufacturer to reduce iterative steps, reduce scrap and rework, and cut lead time for first article parts from weeks to just days.

jjohnson's picture

Jim Johnson

Technical Sales Manager