The individual layers of the component to be generated are built up by means of melting plastic filaments. Besides pure plastic filaments, composite filaments have been developed which contain a considerable amount of metal. When the printed green parts are sintered, metallic components are created which can otherwise only be produced using laser-based 3D printing.
Nowadays, plastic components achieve enormous strengths. The short carbon fibre reinforced nylon (PA6) filament can be mixed with a continuous glass fibre if necessary. Using this method, the structures are additionally reinforced in a targeted manner to achieve strengths comparable to aluminium alloys. Demonstrator components, functional models and also tools or aids for production are produced at low cost.
In addition to these functional parts, low-stress components made of common plastics such as PLA, ABS or PET can of course be manufactured, too.
Metallic additive manufacturing is realized by the FFF process (Fused Filament Fabrication), as in the plastics sector.
Metal powder is embedded in a binder matrix, which is brought into the desired form with the printer. A large part of the binder is removed in the subsequent washing process. The final strength is achieved by sintering. Thus, a green part becomes a finished part with properties comparable to those of a conventionally produced component.
In contrast to beam-based additive manufacturing processes, steels with increased carbon content (e.g. tool steels) and materials such as copper or Inconel can also be processed.