Research-driven innovation is really pulling weight in the 3D printing industry. The additive manufacturing program in Somerset Community College (SCC) has successfully been able to produce stainless steel parts using a $600 desktop 3D printer. The program leaders have also been able to Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) weld several of these parts together.
This project succeeded in its goal of using an inexpensive 3D desktop printer to print stainless steel parts. It is one of the first times that fully metal parts were 3D printed on an inexpensive desktop printer and welded together using conventional welding methods.
SCC has been at the top of the leaderboard when it comes to advancing 3D printing operations in Kentucky. The school created the southeastern state’s first certificate program in 3D printing while also helping businesses integrate 3D printing into their workflows or operations.
“Helping these groups understand that the power of additive manufacturing is not so much about the 3D printer itself.” says Eric Wooldridge, Additive Manufacturing Professor at SCC”It is about the complex Next-Generation products that the 3D printers can create as well as the cutting edge materials that the printers can utilize.”
Metal extrusion 3D printers come with a whole lot of safety requirements and could cost as much as half a million dollars. However, SCC was able to customize low-cost desktop 3D printers worth just about $450 for metal filament extrusion for less than $600 per printer. The parts were 3D printed and then heated to remove the plastic and fuse the remaining metal together.
This results in parts made entirely of metal—in this case, stainless steel. The final step was to hand the parts over to SCC’s welding department and let them work their magic.
SCC’s welding professor, Karl Watson, successfully used TIG welding on the parts and was impressed by the results.
“The welds flowed very smoothly, and we had very good penetration control,” says Watson. “Because of the nature of 3D printing, I expected to see more porosity in the weld, but that wasn’t the case at all. I am looking forward to doing some bend tests to determine the potential malleability.”