Proto Processes DMLS-Aluminum
Aluminium, with its chemical symbol Al and atomic number 13, is a lightweight, silvery-white, and malleable metal known for its exceptional combination of physical and mechanical properties. It boasts a density of approximately 2.7 g/cm³, making it one of the lightest commercially available metals. This low density, along with its high corrosion resistance due to a naturally forming oxide layer on its surface, makes aluminium a popular choice in various technical applications. The metal exhibits good thermal and electrical conductivity, enabling its use in electrical wiring, heat sinks, and other heat transfer applications. Furthermore, aluminium is highly recyclable, which not only reduces environmental impact but also conserves energy as it takes only a fraction of the energy to recycle aluminium compared to extracting it from bauxite ore, its primary source.
In addition to its lightweight nature, aluminium possesses excellent strength-to-weight ratio, making it a favored material in the aerospace and automotive industries. It is commonly alloyed with other elements like copper, magnesium, and silicon to enhance its mechanical properties. These alloys can be tailored to suit specific engineering requirements, balancing strength, corrosion resistance, and formability. Aluminium’s versatility extends to various forms, including sheets, plates, extrusions, and castings, making it suitable for a wide range of technical applications, from aircraft construction to automotive components, architectural structures, and consumer electronics. Its non-toxic nature and non-magnetic properties further enhance its utility in sectors such as food packaging and medical equipment, underlining aluminium’s significance in modern technical and industrial contexts.
Common Industry Applications
Aluminum parts fabricated using DMLS are employed in the aerospace sector to produce lightweight yet robust components, in the automotive industry for complex engine parts, and in DMLS heat exchangers for efficient thermal management.
3D Printing – Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
|Coefficient of Thermal
Expansion (micro m/m-deg)
|16 - 120
Designing for DMLS with aluminum involves attention to lightweighting and heat management. To achieve this, using topology optimization to create organic, lattice-like structures can reduce material consumption while maintaining structural integrity. Aluminum parts can be printed with thin walls and hollow sections, but these features should be considered in the context of the application to avoid unintended consequences on thermal conductivity and stiffness. Proper support structures and heat sinks are necessary to mitigate distortion and warping during printing.
Cost Saving Tip
Cost-saving strategies for 3D printing aluminum involve designing parts with minimal overhangs and support structures, thus reducing post-processing labor and material consumption. Selecting the right aluminum alloy for the specific application can also optimize cost-efficiency, as some alloys are more affordable while still meeting performance requirements. Efficient nesting and batch printing can minimize idle machine time and reduce overall production costs.