A team of from the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) is now using aluminum additive manufacturing, demonstrating how the technology is becoming increasingly accessible to academia and research facilities with limited resources as well as small- and medium-sized businesses. The university group is using an affordable metal 3D printer from Xact Metal and aluminum powder from Equispheres Inc.
“Barriers to the expansion of metal AM are falling,” said Evan Butler-Jones, Vice President of Product & Strategy for Equispheres. “This project illustrates that there are options that make additive manufacturing available to producers wherever, whenever it makes sense for a particular application.”
Central to SDU’s project was Equispheres’ NExP-1 AM powder, an aluminum powder with safe storage and handling properties. Aluminum is a notoriously difficult (and hazardous) metal to print due to its highly reactive nature, and the SDU team only felt confident in pursuing its project when Equispheres’ non-explosive, non-combustible powder was released in 2022. The team is using the powder with Xact Metal’s low-cost XM200G metal 3D printer, making it the first metal AM adopter to use this combination.
“This project was our first attempt at printing reactive powders,” said Andrei-Alexandru Popa, Additive Manufacturing Lead and Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Denmark. “The safer handling characteristics of Equispheres’ NExP-1 powder made us feel more comfortable using aluminum powder in a university lab setting. After much preparation and support from our friends at Xact Metal and Equispheres, we stepped into uncharted territory: 3D printing NExP-1 aluminum on an XM200G printer. We are the first to try this combination of hardware and feedstock, and I’m thrilled that our success will add another bit of knowledge to the additive manufacturing universe.”
SDU’s project was presented this week at Formnext 2023 by Andrei-Alexandru Popa, showing attendees how accessible AM equipment from Xact Metal and materials from Equispheres enabled the researchers to achieve aluminum 3D printing capabilities in house. Critically, the low-cost of the Xact Metal system has not meant any sacrifice in quality.
“The positive results experienced by Andrei-Alexandru and the team at SDU are consistent with what we’ve seen with industrial, multi-laser printers using NExP-1,” said Butler-Jones. “NExP-1 retains the best characterisitics of a high-performance AlSi10Mg aluminum powder—faster print speeds and consistent mechanical properties—plus it makes equipment clean-up quicker and easier.”