AMT 3D - Hybrid 3D Printing

Hybrid 3D Printing

Traditionally, 3D metal printing is used to print metal components from raw powder using the 3D cad model file. In recent years, it has been used to print only a portion of the component or injection mold. One common application is to print the conformal cooling insert onto the existing mold base, which was manufactured by conventional CNC process. This hybrid 3D printing allows the manufacturing of the conformal channel at the top of the mold.

This method allows us to repair or re-manufacture a portion of the existing component or mold instead of manufacturing the entire component/mold all over again. In this way, the overall cost is very much reduced since the same final product is achieved in a lower cycle time - by taking advantage of the benefits and complementing both traditional CNC machining and 3D metal printing technology.

Advantages of Hybrid 3D Printing:

  • Able to repair existing mold or component
  • Achieves cost savings relative to printing of the entire mold
  • Complex cooling channel can be formed onto existing mold surface
  • Adding conformal cooling system results in cycle time reduction (> 50% cycle time reduction easily achievable)
  • Resolves part warpage and sink mark due to uneven cooling of part
  • Increases overall production yield
  • Increases injection machine capacity
  • Increases profit margin of part
  • Helps product designers perfect their ideas

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Step 1 – Mixing

Very fine metal or ceramic powder is mixed with a thermoplastic polymer (known as the binder) to form a homogeneous mixture of ingredients. The mixture or feedstock is made into granulated pellets and directly fed into the injection machine.

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Step 2 – Injection

During injection, the feedstock is heated and injected into the cavity of the mold. This allows the desired shapes and geometries to be formed. The molded part is known as the green part.

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Step 3 – Debinding

The polymeric binder is removed thermally via the debinding process. The green part is subjected to the debinding process at a high temperature while maintaining its relative size and shape. The brown part consists of a powder skeleton that is brittle and porous.

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Step 4 – Sintering

The final stage of the PIM process is sintering. During sintering, the brown part is heated to below its melting temperature. As sintering progresses, density increases, pores are eliminated and the part shrinks to achieve a dense and near-net shape component.

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