3d printing aluminum is an excellent choice for functional prototypes and end-use parts, delivering the strength, lightweight properties, corrosion resistance, and electrical conductivity that engineers seek. For complex shapes and geometries that would be difficult to produce by other means, aluminum additive manufacturing (AM) can provide the freedom of design for improved performance and weight reduction.
There are several different AM processes that can be used for working with Aluminum: Laser powder bed fusion (LPBF), Directed Energy Deposition (DED) and binder jetting. At Sculpteo we use Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology, in which an Aluminum powder is sintered layer-by-layer with the help of a laser beam.
When the CAD model is ready, the build platform of the printer is loaded with Aluminum metal powder and the process starts: The heaters fixed inside the 3D printer bring the Aluminum powder close to its sintering point. The laser heat for aluminum sinters the powder into a solid, and then a new layer of Aluminum metal powder is spread on top of the previous one. The process repeats itself until the part is finished.
Once the printing is complete, the loose material surrounding the Aluminum powder is removed and the part is left to cool. At this stage the Sculpteo team can perform standard post-processing to remove the supports and make sure the surface of the Aluminum is medium blasted for a uniform appearance. If required, CNC machining or polishing can also be done on the Aluminum parts.