In the ever-evolving 3D printing landscape, Metal Binder Jetting (MBJ) is emerging as a noteworthy technology. Despite challenges like complex supply chains and user skepticism, 2023 witnessed major companies in the computer, communication, and consumer electronics (3C) industry such as Huawei and Apple leveraging MBJ 3D printing.
In this interview, the leader of a binder jet specialist, Cai DaoSheng, EASYMFG Chairman evaluates MBJ technology and its role in mass production.
“Our potential concern is that if a single leading enterprise is responsible for matching and servicing core users, it may lead to overall disappointment among core users in the MBJ industry. Therefore, all teams engaged in MBJ need to strengthen collaboration, accelerate R&D testing, and avoid the idea of merely riding the buzz of MBJ,” said Cai DaoSheng.
Daosheng’s vision for MBJ integration and growth
DaoSheng believes, that as MBJ stands on the brink of wider adoption, the technology faces a critical juncture. Demonstrating its capabilities in large-scale manufacturing is crucial to instilling confidence among industrial users. He explained that 2024 is pivotal for MBJ, emphasizing the need to establish trust and seamless integration across the industrial chain, from material suppliers to end-users which will help enhance production efficiency and competitiveness.
“We sincerely hope that HP can rapidly promote applications in the domestic market and that Desktop Metal and Markforged can develop smoothly. We also hope that GE and Ricoh can bring their products to market quickly, collectively driving the flourishing development of the MBJ market,” added DaoSheng.
In comparison to the expansive community involved in the development of Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology, the community engaged in MBJ technology research is comparatively smaller. DaoSheng said that collaborative efforts and accelerated R&D are important to bridge this gap and ensure sustained growth for MBJ.
Under the leadership of DaoSheng, EASYMFG intends to lead and oversee the development of MBJ technology. The company is committed to augmenting human and financial resources, fostering innovation in R&D, and expanding the application of MBJ in key industries such as the 3C industry, powder metallurgy, hydraulic valves, and aerospace.
EASYMFG’s innovation: M400Pro and beyond
According to the Chairman, the introduction of the M400Pro 3D printer in August 2023 signifies EASYMFG’s commitment to addressing challenges in MBJ technology. DaoSheng underscored that this 3D printer includes uniform top-feed powder spreading mechanisms and high-speed data processing algorithms.
“In the first half of 2023, I decided to halt the external sales and delivery of all previously produced MBJ devices. We opted for wide-format printheads and modules, focusing on the production of MBJ devices for high-precision printing. At the end of August 2023, the M400Pro unveiled at Formnext in Shenzhen was the first truly production-level MBJ device guided by this mindset,” said DaoSheng.
Tailored for large-size efficient printing, EASYMFG has also introduced the Max-level device, boasting a build chamber volume twice that of the M400Pro. Simultaneously, the Inno series, designed for research and testing, provides a platform for efficient material replacement and testing of new materials and products.
DaoSheng revealed that plans for the first half of 2024 include the launch of two metal printers, a small-sized printer for research and material testing, and a large-sized printer for mass production. Debuting at the Powder Metallurgy Exhibition in Shanghai in March 2024, the small-sized 3D printer is developed to maintain accuracy comparable to the production-level M400Pro, at an affordable price.
“The large-format equipment is primarily targeted at mass production scenarios and large-sized components. While expanding the forming space, we ensure that the printing time does not increase. The single-layer full-width printing time is around 10 seconds, equivalent to an improvement in forming efficiency,” he said.
Advanced features of this system include a low-dust powder feeding mechanism, automatic cleaning for powder spreading rollers, fully automatic feeding with minimal powder loss, and wide-format one-pass printing. Additionally, it incorporates high-precision high-speed data processing to enhance overall efficiency.
“In our commitment to excellence, we delayed the delivery of products slated for October to the end of 2023. Throughout this period, we enhanced the printhead, powder roller wiping devices, and printhead wiping and cleaning devices. The first batch of M400Pro printers was finally delivered on the last working day of 2023,” explained DaoSheng.
The future of Metal Binder Jetting
DaoSheng highlighted that MBJ enables easy printing of large parts, especially in the sand casting market. However, challenges surfacing during high-temperature sintering for large parts, necessitate special measures to minimize deformation and uneven heating, leading to a significant rise in sintering furnace costs. Despite these hurdles, Daosheng is optimistic about MBJ’s future, stressing the need for thoughtful design in MBJ equipment and urging the industry to reconsider the size of the build box.
“We recommend that when designing MBJ equipment, the length of the build box should not exceed 600mm, and the height should not exceed 200mm. With this design, the total duration of 30μm layer thickness printing remains within 24 hours, making it a most reasonable MBJ design,” explained DaoSheng.
EASYMFG’s commitment to MBJ technology has not hindered the company from considering future expansions. “With the release and improvement of three production-grade metal printing devices, we are now exploring the introduction of polymer material printing based on BJ technology. This project was temporarily suspended for several years to prioritize MBJ technology. Therefore, in the second half of 2024, there is a high likelihood that we will introduce polymer material color printing technology or high elasticity material printing technology,” added DaoSheng.
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Featured image shows Cai DaoSheng, Chairman of EASYMFG. Photo via EASYMFG.