Somerset Community College (SCC), a community college based in Somerset, Kentucky, have recently become successful in 3D printing many 316L stainless steel metal parts by using and modifying budget desktop 3D printers.
This project has become one of the first of its kind in which 3D printed metal parts that were done on $600 printers have been successfully welded together by using traditional welding techniques. This suggests that this kind of printing could be successful to use for industrial applications soon.
The Somerset Community College’s Additive Manufacturing (AM) Department started this project off by using several budget desktop FDM printers, that cost about $450 each, and then they upgraded the machines by fitting them with metal filament extrusion capabilities. Also, the build plates were modified to better adhesion in order to deliver the new material printing capabilities.
Both material manufacturer Virtual Foundry and chemistry expert BASF were able to provide SCC with the metal filament they can use for the upgraded machines. Special calculations had to be done in order to account for the production issues, such as shrinkage and the parts that were printed.
The 3D printed parts would then be transferred to SCC’s welding department to gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), also known as TIG welding, was used to weld the parts together. The welding applied many fillets and grooves to the pieces. In the end, the project was a complete success.
The big question now is what comes next now that this project was a complete success.
For now, SCC plans to bring this inexpensive metal 3D printing technology to a few selected companies and academic institutions in Kentucky. They even will plan on providing training workshops on the set-up and assembly of these machines.
Eric Woolridge, director of SCC’s Additive Manufacturing program, told 3D Printing Industry quote, “Being able to bring truly low cost metal 3D printing and advanced product design directly to schools and colleges across Kentucky is a chance of a lifetime opportunity for us, and we are very excited to get started.”
Once the testing and safety preparations are all in place, SCC will begin selecting training sites for instructors to start implementing the technology into Kentucky’s workforce.