Combining cutting-edge hardware with laser-focused software, The University of Manchester have developed a 3D printing solution that is a cut above the rest
Currently, 3D printing involving metals is hampered by a lack of compatibility of multiple materials, reducing the selection of materials able to be used, and limiting the complexity of shapes that can be created. Furthermore, different materials are unable to be printed on the same layer without the inevitability of material contamination. This has resulted in software that is solely designed for single material printing, and even small components requiring a large volume of materials.
The University of Manchester has developed a 3D printer capable of utilising multiple materials, optimising the delivery of certain materials, such as metals, ceramics, and polymers. The combined powder-bed and point-by-point multiple material delivery using selective laser melting maximise the functionality of each material. This results in highly integrated multi-functional components using minimal materials and processes.
This state-of-the-art design reduces raw material wastage through decreasing material contamination and allowing materials to be reused and recycled. The University of Manchester have developed new software tools for use with multiple materials, and this more sophisticated system minimises restrictions on designs, allowing for more freedom in what can be printed.
This gives the potential to create combinations/blends of materials with complementary performance characteristics for aerospace applications, such as components for rocket engines. It also has the benefit of enabling customer-specific products, such as jewellery, and medical and dental implants.