Updated 4:59 PM EDT, Fri, Oct 11, 2019

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World’s First Metal 3D Printing Technology Combining Printing, Casting and Forging Developed in China

Metal 3D printing

Engine part made using smart micro casting & forging.

After 10 years of research, a team of scientists in China has developed a revolutionary metal 3D printing technology that combines 3D printing, casting and forging, the first time this has been done anywhere.

The metal 3D printing technology is called "smart micro casting and forging" and the special 3D printer that gets the job done is being developed under the name, Micro Forging & Casting Sync Composite Device.

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The technology combines metal casting and forging technology to considerably improve the strength and ductility of metal molds thereby expanding their service lives and reliability. Combining 3D printing, casting and forging also contributes to stronger parts strength and toughness; improved product lifecycles and better reliability, according to the inventors.

The Chinese team claims its new technology uses metal wire that is 90 percent cheaper than additive manufacturing powders, and is 80 percent more efficient than SLM 3D printing. It also said the technology has solved the biggest obstacle facing the 3D printing industry.

The team said its smart micro casting and forging is an innovation that will be a boon to global machinery manufacturing, the aerospace, automotive and molding industries. The technology can also be used to create thin-walled metal components while eliminating excess material.

Led by Zhang Haiou, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei province, the team also developing the Micro Forging & Casting Sync Composite Device. This all-in-one micro-casting-forging-milling manufacturing device is an alternative to metal 3D printing methods like selective laser melting and sintering.

It will be capable of producing metal forging parts up to 5.5 m × 4.2 m × 1.5 m in size with a surface roughness of 0.02 mm or the level of general machining processing.

"In the past, conventional 3D printing has been fatally flawed in the following areas. First, without forging, metal parts have a serious chance of wearing. Second, the performance of 3D printed parts has not been high. A third problem is the presence of pores and unfused portions and the fourth is that using a laser or electron beam as a heat source is very costly," said Zhang.

Experts have verified that parts made using the team's 3D printing, casting and forging all-in-one technology are more stable compared to those made by traditional casting. 

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