Development of a novel metal 3D printer using visible light

Lead Participant: Photocentric Limited

Abstract

"This project will create an innovative approach to additive manufacturing of fully functional metal components, providing both large scale and low cost to the user. The approach is based 3D printing of parts from a liquid which contains a very high metal content in an organic binder which is photo-curable under visible light. This forms a green body which is then fired to remove the organic content and sintered to full density. This combines the advantages of processes such as metal injection moulding (e.g. excellent resolution of true net-shape parts and removing the need for post-processing to achieve a suitable surface finish for engineering parts) with the flexibility of mass customisation achievable in additive manufacturing, since mould tooling is not required.

Over the last 3 years, Photocentric, an established UK manufacturer of photo-curable resins, has developed a new type of 3D printing process using light in the visible range of the spectrum to cure the polymer instead of UV. This enables normal LCD screens as found in iPads and televisions to be used as the image creation device in the 3D printer, reducing costs by an order of magnitude in comparison to laser-based systems.

A range of innovative printers has been successfully brought to market for creating plastic objects at lower costs and in larger formats than previously possible, taking advantage of the wide array of high resolution screens available. Now, with the aid of InnovateUK, this consortium will extend the technology to develop a process to deliver custom parts for all industrial sectors in many different metals.

LPW, a leading provider of metal powders and TWI, one of Europe's largest research and technology organisations, will work with Photocentric to develop the process. The consortium will develop the ink, the metal 3D printer and the printing process. Industrial direction and process validation will be achieved through the involvement of Hieta, one of the UK's leading exponents of additive manufacturing.

The process will enable rapid production of low cost custom metal parts in many different metals supplying them to a variety of industries- all made without tooling direct from a digital file."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Photocentric Limited, Peterborough £515,186 £ 309,112
 

Participant

L.P.W. Technology Limited, RUNCORN £180,566 £ 103,667
The Welding Institute £163,306 £ 163,306
Hieta Technologies Ltd, WOKINGHAM £29,678 £ 20,775

Publications

10 25 50