The Use of Furnaces in 3D Printing

DED processes

While manufacturers scramble to realize the full promise of 3D metal printing with new methods, better throughput and more accuracy, a survey of 3d Printing technology in 2017 shows that Powder Bed Fusion, or Direct Energy Deposition methods still dominate most equipment. Both these methods require a sintering phase where the printed part is purged of catalysts, and non-uniformities introduced during the printing process.

3D Printing Processes

In metal 3d printing, the dominant form of printing is currently powder bed fusion, in which a laser (SLM) or electron beam (EBM) fuses particles of metal powder together point by point, layer by layer until an object is grown into final form. Powder bed fusion systems are designed to control both the energy source and the distribution of powder.

powder bed fusion process

A diagram of the powder bed fusion process. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Directed energy deposition (DED) and binder jetting are also used to 3D print metal objects. In the case of the former, powder or a metal wire feedstock is introduced to an energy source. In the case of the latter, a liquid binder is deposited onto a bed of metal powder. After the print is complete, the object is heat treated and sintered in a furnace.

DED processes

Various configurations of DED processes. (Images courtesy of Wikipedia.)

A Sintering Furnace Solution for 3D Printing

Despite the fact that the best 3d Metal Printing Systems cost north of $300K, the 3d printed parts still require careful thermal sintering and/or heat treatment to help them achieve proper size, hardness and density. This is regardless of what process produces them. Failure to manage this critical finishing step properly can yield parts with internal flaws that compromise integrity, or parts that require excessive mechanical finishing.

Selecting a Furnace for finishing your parts is largely a function of what kinds of metals your will process (temperature), what kind of atmosphere you will heat them in, (air, hydrogen, nitrogen), and what kind of throughput you need in your production or lab environment.

Here are a couple of the most common CM furnaces used in the finishing of 3d metal printed parts:

CM Rapid Temp Series – One of the most flexible furnace designs on the market, these batch furnaces come in box furnace or tube furnace forms in multiple sizes. Available with sealed atmosphere chambers and temperature ranges from 1200 to 1800 degrees Celsius.

CM 400 series continuous furnace – This furnace is a better choice for medium to high volume production environments. With multiple heating zones, atmosphere sealed chambers, and sophisticated thermal profile automation, the furnace is both reliable and customizable.

All CM furnaces are designed and manufactured right here in the USA. For more information on furnaces suitable for your 3D printing process, contact CM furnaces today.