In the era of additive manufacturing technologies, 3D printers are revolutionizing the creation of metal components. This technology allows us to shape complex forms and customize components in ways unachievable with other techniques. However, it’s important to note that, in order to achieve the desired specific mechanical properties, careful consideration is often required not only in the pre-printing preparation but also in precise post-printing thermal treatment. Printed materials often need meticulous thermal treatment to attain optimal results, thereby eliminating a significant portion of the residual stress-related printing issues faced by users of these technologies. This is where the expertise of HTS Furnaces comes into play.
Preparation for printing
Focusing on Additive Manufacturing utilizing the most prevalent technology, Selective Laser Melting (SLM), underscores the criticality of controlling the material’s surrounding environment throughout the process. For instance, in the phase preceding printing, when powders are produced, attention must be paid to their production method. If powders are obtained in an unsuitable atmosphere, they may end up being oxidized powders, which are challenging to melt or can introduce defects within the printed component. Let’s assume the powders have a sound starting base, meaning they have been properly produced in terms of shape and absence of oxidation. Throughout the process, it remains vital to monitor the environment within the printing chamber. SLM 3D printing is akin to a continuous welding process, necessitating the protection of the molten pool with an inert gas. Even if the environment is rendered inert, small traces of oxygen or impurities in the gas can translate into inclusions in the final piece, undesired discolorations, or a gradual reduction in mechanical performance over time.
At the conclusion of 3D printing, the majority of materials printed using SLM technology require additional thermal treatment. This treatment serves to relieve the stresses accumulated within the material during printing or optimize the mechanical properties of the component based on its intended use. Typically, these treatments are conducted in air or a controlled environment, but for specific materials such as stainless steel, titanium superalloys, nickel superalloys, and CoCr alloys, a vacuum or high vacuum environment and precise process control are necessary.
HTS Furnaces: efficiency and control throughout the process
Thanks to continuous testing and in-depth research, HTS Furnaces has achieved remarkable results in these post-printing treatment contexts, enabling outstanding outcomes with their vacuum furnaces. HTS Furnaces’ furnaces play a pivotal role in ensuring that 3D printed metal components meet expectations for quality and performance.
HTS Furnaces’ expertise demonstrates that in vacuum thermal treatments for metal components created using additive manufacturing technology, it is possible to:
- Minimize surface contaminations during thermal treatment, enabling thermal cycles on finished components, thereby enhancing and standardizing the mechanical characteristics of the component.
- Make thermal production cycles extremely reproducible and replicable.
- Clean and maintain the surfaces of parts subjected to thermal treatment, rendering them bright and, in some cases, improved.
Beyond these advantages, it’s also important to consider that some of these parts are used in sectors like aerospace and medicine, where strict regulations regarding surface contamination reduction and optimization and homogeneity of mechanical properties apply.