Now-a-days more and more manufacturers are becoming familiar with the capabilities of metal 3D printing technology. Although, 3D printing has been around for more than 30 years, it is only in recent years that it has become widely recognised in the manufacturing industry. Apart from this, the process and benefits offered by Metal Injection Molding is complex. As a result, the metal manufacturing technology using 3D printing is increasing globally for small batch production. Its market is growing with double digits, in an attempt to beat MIM market. Tokyo-based technology company “Ricoh” has just revealed a new 3D printer that also uses a resin binder to efficiently sinter metal particles together in a highly detailed 3D printing process, but uses that binder far more efficiently. Ricoh being a well-known technology developer, with a global footprint, specializes in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services.
The 3D printer does have a very interesting production method. Instead of solidifying parts with a laser like typical SLS 3D printers, this 3D printer binds metal particles together by spraying thin coats of resin onto them. Forming a kind of Nano scale resin coat on the surface of the particles, this is followed by an ink coating that solidifies the component. That part is then transferred to a sintering furnace, where the particles blend together to form highly detailed metal parts.
During this process, the 3D printer uses a binding material that is comparable to that used during metal injection molding, but is significantly more efficient. In fact, it only uses about a tenth of the amount of resin that is used during the molding competitor and there’s no need to remove the resin before sintering and parts therefore do not require any molds, unlike metal injection molding techniques. While metal injection molding is part of a growing market, Ricoh is effectively overtaking that technology in terms of production speed and efficiency. Along with Rioch, there are few other companies such as UK’s CIM Technologies Ltd and Sintered Company are replacing their metal injection molding process with 3D printing technology. Therefore, 3D printing technology has become widely recognised and captured the attention of both manufacturing industry and the general public with significant developments that can successfully replace metal injection molding.