Velo3D develops process for 3D printing aluminium

California-based Velo3D has announced the ‘commercial release’ of a production process for additively manufactured parts in aluminium F357 on its Sapphire metal 3D printing system. The foundry-grade aluminium alloy, which is suitable for the laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) process, enables the 3D printing of parts that have traditionally been manufactured using casting practices.

While there are other aluminium alloys that are more commonly used in metal additive manufacturing (such as AlSi10Mg), aluminium F357 can be anodised and shares characteristics with A356 (a widely used casting alloy).

Benny Buller, founder and CEO of Velo3D, said: “Unlike some exotic alloys, aluminium F357 has already been certified for mission-critical applications, so it was a logical addition to our materials portfolio. We will continue to add more compatible materials that enable customers to print parts they couldn’t before — and with even better material properties than traditional manufacturing.”

The manufacturing process of aluminium F357 for the Sapphire printer was developed jointly with PWR, which is a global supplier of advanced cooling solutions to Formula One, NASCAR and other racing series (plus the automotive, military and aerospace industries).

Matthew Bryson, PWR’s general manager, said: “We chose aluminium F357 for its thermal performance, machining and weldability. Our ability to print free-form and lightweight structures for heat-transfer applications with our Sapphire system will further enhance the performance and packaging optimisation opportunities for our product range and will provide significant value to our customers.”

Velo3D is recognised for enabling ‘geometric freedom’ through its patented SupportFree process, which eliminates the need for support structures when producing ‘complex passageways, steep over-hangs and low angles’.

Coupled with its non-contact re-coater, Velo3D’s printing process can produce the ultra-thin wall structures and high aspect ratios that are essential for a variety of flight-critical applications. The company recently announced that a one metre tall system will be available in Q4 2020.

The Sapphire metal AM printer is now compatible with titanium 64, Inconel 718 and now aluminium F357.