Industrial 3D printing - Proto Labs

Industrial 3D printing is hugely important when it comes to creating functional prototypes. We visited the exhibitor Proto Labs at the Hannover Messe to find out more. Messe.TV presenter Felix Rother was amazed when Managing Director Thomas Langensiepen showed him that the "printed products" are not only used in the technical sector, but also in the medical field.

3D Printing Wheel Suspension Proto Labs
MesseTV interview Proto Labs industrial 3D printing

Plastic 3D printing is available in the form of 2 different processes. Stereolithography and laser sintering. Metal 3D printing, known as direct laser sintering, has also been around for many years. When complex 3-dimensional metal geometries are required, for example with struts, they are difficult to produce by machining, i.e. milling or similar. This is where 3D printing comes in.

3D Printing Metal Turbocharger Proto Labs
Metalworking Proto Labs Hannover Fair

Today, it is already possible to produce 3D printing with a wide variety of materials. These range from aluminum to titanium. An object produced in this way has the stability it needs for use. The objects in the showcase illustrate this combination of 3D metal printing and post-processing. The model in the picture above shows what it looks like when it comes straight from the printer.

CNC metal processing Proto Labs Hannover Fair
MesseTV Interview Proto Labs Thomas Langensiepen Hannover Fair

If you need fits and suchlike, you could not process this object any further. You take the printed part, process it further, re-mill it, cut threads. Straight from the printer, the surface is matt and rough. After machining, it is smooth and shiny. This can also be seen on the printed turbocharger. Aerodynamic components are important here. Therefore, the straight surfaces must be flat due to the tightness, as you can see in the picture below. To achieve this, the metal side must be ground smooth to meet the flow conditions. There are also other fields of application where 3D printing is used. In the field of medicine, for example. In the body, in the bone area, there are extraordinarily complex shapes. Here you can see a skull with a titanium printed part. Titanium is the preferred material for the medical field. Proto Labs works directly with clinics. The data is scanned from the patient and the company manufactures the spare parts that are used directly for humans. The lattice structure of a bone is directly incorporated into the titanium print, as shown here. The titanium model is implemented directly in the patient.

3D printing medicine titanium implant human skull proto labs
3D printing replacement bone titanium proto labs

Classic CNC machining and injection molding are other fields that Proto Labs offers. Here you can see CNC machined parts, 5-axis parts. The metal selection is larger. Various plastics, aluminum, brass, steel, stainless steel and copper. These geometries call out to be machined. CNC machining is also intended for individual parts. The injection molding process is used for higher demand. When 100 or 1000 parts are required, injection molding is the more efficient method. Over 160 different materials can be used for this. From individual parts to series - always based on the requirements - are produced here.

3D printing applications: industry, medicine and many more