Heavy Metal

Toshiba Promises Tenfold Speed in Metal 3D Printing

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Metal 3D printing has lots of potential, and competition is heating up. Toshiba has developed a metal 3D printer that’s 10x faster than current technology.

When it comes to  additive manufacturing, creating metal 3D prints at a high speed is still something which has a long way to go. But Toshiba has announced they have a process to print metal objects that’s faster than any current method. Ten times faster, in fact.

The Japanese company, whose brand is synonymous with laptops and televisions, are confident that their 3D printer can speedily print not just thermoplastic, but metals such as stainless steel and iron.

Why is this a big deal? Currently, the slow speed and exorbitant cost of the machines capable of 3D printing metals means even a simple design is a substantial investment.

But Toshiba have partnered with their machine tools unit, Toshiba Machine, and claim they could have an affordable metal 3D printer on the market by as early as 2017.

How Does the Toshiba Metal 3D Printer Work?

Toshiba have released further details on the mystery machine. Their metal 3D printer will use laser metal deposition (LMD) technology which deposits powdered metal and uses a laser at the same time.

Once a layer of powder is place, the laser then heats up the powder and sinters it, so that everything fuses together into the required shape.

Toshiba claim that a new nozzle — based on their “know-how in fluid simulation technology” — is responsible for the high speed breakthrough.

Apparently, the nozzle reduces the area to which metal particles are injected, and the laser beam focuses very precisely on the tiny area covered by the powder.

This means their prototype can achieve a fabrication speed of 110cc an hour, and also has an 800-watt laser output, so it should be able to build larger structures at a lower cost than the methods which are used currently.

Toshiba have been exhibiting their 3D printer at Monozukuri Matching Japan 2015 this week. More news on this story as it develops.