Israeli start-up Xjet has outlined its vision. It wants to be to metals, what Minnesota-based 3D printing company Stratasys was to plastics. It wants to drive metal printing production into the mainstream, opening up a whole range of opportunities for 3D printing technology.

Xjet are developing an inkjet printing for liquid metal. Traditional 3D printing processes require a specific mould needs to be created first before metals can be printed, which is expensive and largely restricted to specific functions such as parts for military jets and spaceships. If successful, Xjet’s technology could create a large scale manufacturing marketplace for 3D printing metals.

There are a number of areas where 3D printing metal production could be highly valuable. The production of cars from steel and aluminium, as opposed to plastic, is an obvious one. This article points out the benefits for healthcare, where a custom-made titanium knee could be printed almost instantaneously for a patient.

It would seem that printing metals is unanimously beneficial. Still, it’s important to keep in mind a point made by 3D printing researcher, Alysia Gamulewicz, in an article for Circulate earlier this year. In that piece, she argues that increasing material palettes for 3D printing should not be viewed as the end objective for the production method and that:

If 3D printing innovation is not directed by systems thinking, we could speed up the linear economy by feeding industry higher quantities of mixed materials that are more difficult to cycle back into production.

The ability to print metals is clearly invaluable to additive manufacturing in the longer-term, but it does not guarantee that 3D printing will have a role to play in a prosperous future for the global economy as a whole. For that, a more complex view of manufacturing is still required.

Source: 3D printing ready for its next big sprint – metal

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