Laser Prototypes Europe (LPE), a UK 3D printing service bureau, has purchased a £500,000 metal sintering machine, the firm’s largest investment to date, allowing it to expand its prototyping and manufacturing capabilities. As a result LPE is now able to offer 3D printed parts made from aluminium, stainless steel and titanium.
The new £500,000 sintering machine enables LPE to fabricate 3D printed aluminium, stainless steel and titanium parts. (Credit: LPE)
The investment was made possible by a ‘Grant for SFA Capital support’ announced earlier this year from Invest NI, a Northern Irish economic development agency. This in turn was part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.
‘This is a massive investment and step forward for LPE in terms of our expansion into the metal sintering market,’ commented Tom Walls, managing director of LPE. ‘The substantial value of this investment reflects our confidence in this new technology and demonstrates our commitment to staying at the forefront of innovation in this fast-moving industry.’
Direct metal laser sintering, also known as selective laser sintering or selective laser melting, generates metal prototypes and tools directly from CAD data. The process uses a variety of alloys, and enables the fabrication of organic geometries, internal features and challenging passages that could not be cast or otherwise machined thanks to them being built layer-by-layer. Parts can be printed to have similar mechanical and physical properties to wrought metal, including high density.
The new machine will greatly reduce LPE’s manufacturing time and financial costs compared to conventional fabrication techniques, according to Walls: ‘This new innovation removes the constraints of traditional manufacturing, allowing our customers freedom to design efficient, lightweight parts. It offers an ideal solution for the cost-effective production of prototypes or final production components, regardless of complexity of design.’
Dr Leslie Orr, manager of ADS Northern Ireland – a trade organisation working closely with Invest NI to ensure the continued success of vital industries – added: ‘Our goal is to double the size of the aerospace, defence, security and space industries, and metal sintering is amazing, allowing intricate metal parts to be built that were previously impossible using traditional manufacturing methods. These new processes are seen as important contributors to innovation and the future growth of the industry.’