Blog Items - Complex Metal AM Made Simple


April 25,  2022


Complex Metal AM Made Simple

Metal additive manufacturing (AM) is on the rise, as reflected by the wide range of technologies currently in play. From powder bed fusion and metal binder jetting to sheet lamination and directed energy deposition, many methods are being used to join metal particles together. And their growing presence is making an impact: various industries – aerospace, automotive and consumer goods to name a few – enjoy design freedom in the manufacturing of components for demanding applications.

With so many options available, it’s hard to imagine room for yet another technology. Well, it’s time to get to know XJet’s groundbreaking material jetting technology – nanoparticle jetting (NPJ). Filling a key need in the metal AM space and already commercially established in ceramic AM, NPJ enables the production of small yet extremely precise and complex metal AM parts, while meeting the highest quality standards.

As shown in the table below, a comparison of NPJ and another jetting technology, binder jetting, underscores the complementary nature of, and differences between, the two methods. Working with existing metal powders, binder jetting systems jet a binding agent (glue) to tie the powder particles together and form the desired shape. The technology enables high-speed, mass printing of relatively medium-to-relatively-large components with reasonable quality and details. In contrast, NPJ uses a powderless process comprising liquid metal ink inputs to create ultrathin layers of material for producing small, highly complex, detailed, and accurate parts.

Binder jetting delivers benefits to large component manufacturers, including adequate process throughput and broad material variety.

NPJ, meanwhile, is raising the production quality bar for small parts manufacturers. The method jets a metal ink (a dispersion of solid metal nanoparticles) into 0.08mm layers to ensure the highest level of detail, accuracy and smoothness of components. By leveraging this extraordinary resolution, NPJ uniquely handles the most complex geometries to provide virtually unlimited freedom of design. NPJ also achieves 99.9% density of materials with minimal distortion to match the properties of traditionally manufactured parts.

The material jetting system’s high definition also makes it ideal for small features, minute details, and complex geometries. NPJ’s use of unique soluble support material, which is jetted while building the part, pushes this capability even further to make geometry complexity a non-issue. By taking the accessibility and removability of support structures out of the equation, NPJ gives a part designer virtually unlimited freedom.

NPJ is also a safe technology. As mentioned, binder jetting along with several other metal AM methods utilize metal powders that can introduce hazards in their processes, and therefore, require special safety measures for protecting both the operator and the environment. On the other hand, NPJ utilizes a green and clean powderless process that jets only liquids. In addition, given the automatic removal of its soluble support materials, the user-friendly NPJ eliminates the need for expert operators, while reducing cleaning time and costs.

And if that’s not enough, NPJ significantly cuts down on post-processing, which accounts for over two-thirds of the cost involved in end-to-end production. This is achieved by eliminating several post-processing steps – including sanding, shaving, refining, and drilling – that binder jetting and other metal AM technologies might require. This not only reduces labor and environmental impact, but also significantly saves on time and money, while offering a better match for myriad applications that require small, complex metal parts.

Given these and other benefits, NPJ complements both traditional manufacturing methods and existing metal AM technologies, fitting a wide range of industries from dental and medical to machinery and more.


Summary Table:


Binder Jetting

Material Jetting (XJet’s NPJ)

Material Jetting Advantages

Part sizeMedium-to-relatively largeSmallSmall, detailed and complex output
Part propertiesMediumExcellentHigh density
Part accuracyLow-mediumHighSignificantly less post-processing
Minimum feature setLow-mediumHighSignificantly less post-processing
Surface finishMediumHighSignificantly less post-processing
GeometryLimitedNo limitationsTrue design freedom
ProcessesLong, tedious and potentially dangerousFast, simple and fully safeNo expertise or safety measures required
ResolutionLow-mediumHighSignificantly less post-processing

The basic concept of each of the technologies:

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