Materials

Desktop Metal expands capabilities of Studio System with H13 3D printable tool steel

Award winning 3D printer manufacturer Desktop Metal has launched H13 tool steel for its Studio System. Demonstrating exceptional hot hardness and abrasion resistance, H13 is an incredibly versatile material suitable for both hot and cold tooling applications. Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal, stated:

“Expanding the Studio System materials portfolio to include H13 tool steel enables designers and engineers to print mold inserts, extrusion dies, forging dies, and sheet metal tooling, including stamping, embossing, bending, and countersinking.”

“This is a key competitive advantage to enable rapid iteration and refinement of tools requiring H13, and the reduction of manufacturing lead times. Teams will also be able to achieve complex geometries that have not been possible with traditional manufacturing methods like machining.”

A 3D printed zipper mold made with H13 tool steel. Photo via Desktop Metal.
A 3D printed zipper mold made with H13 tool steel. Photo via Desktop Metal.

Breaking the mold with 3D printing

Certain molds and extrusion dies have complex geometries which prove challenging for traditional machining processes. Such parts must also be able to withstand the extreme temperatures and pressures required to push molten materials through the extrusion die. Multiple iterations in these molds and die designs can be costly and time-consuming.

The H13 tool steel which can now be used within the Studio System can produce dies with intricate extrusion profiles, expanding the possibilities of 3D printing on the desktop. A number of other 3D printer manufacturers, including DMLS provider Farsoon Technologies, binder jet specialist ExOne, and direct competitor Markforged have also developed H13 for use on their platforms.

Tooling making with the Studio System

As an example, H13 has been used in injection mold cores that support the production of mouthpieces for asthma inhalers. Conventionally, such injection mold cores’ cooling time accounts for 95% of the mold’s entire life cycle. However, the 3D printed mold cores can incorporate a conformal cooling channel to accelerate this process. The material’s heat and abrasion resistance also speed up the cooling time.

“Wear resistance, high hardness, toughness, and resistance to thermal fatigue are just a few of H13’s benefits,” explained Chris Aiello, Operations Manager at Alpha Precision Group, a Pennsylvania-based provider of powder metal component solutions and customer Desktop Metal.

“The downside was always getting a toolmaker to want to work with it. Now that it is available with the Studio System, all of these same benefits will be ready to deploy to the shop floor in days rather than months.”

Macy Industries, Inc., a New Hampshire-based metal fabricator, is another Desktop Metal customer leveraging this material. Steve Lynch, Director of Business Development at the company, said, “3D printing H13 for sheet metal forming tools and stamping is an opportunity for a competitive advantage that will be hard to match.”

“Breaking the norm of how stamping dies are designed and created will be a huge step for engineering, reducing the time and cost for prototyping new ideas.”

Desktop Metal’s materials library also includes 316L and 17-4 PH stainless steels. The company plans to introduce additional core metals to its portfolio, such as superalloys, carbon steels, and copper.

A 3D printed asthma inhaler mouthpiece created with H13. Photo via Desktop Metal.
A 3D printed asthma inhaler mouthpiece created with H13 tool steel. Photo via Desktop Metal.

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Featured image shows a 3D printed extruder die made from H13 tool steel. Photo via Desktop Metal.

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