Powder bed fusion (PBF) is a 3D printing technique that uses an energy source, usually a laser or an electron beam, to combine powdered material point by point. It’s one of the most common industrial additive manufacturing solutions 3D printing processes (AM). Both metals and polymers can be used in PBF, albeit not all materials are suitable.
What Is Powder Bed Fusion and How Does It Work?
Powder bed fusion is a technique that uses an energy source to fuse powdered materials. A blade or roller spreads a thin coating of powder across a build surface, the energy source melts or sinters the material required for that layer selectively, and the build plate descends to make space for the next layer.
Laser or beam power, spot size, hatch pattern, layer height, powder quality, and other factors all play a role in PBF processes. Process development with these systems has traditionally required a lot of trial and error, especially with metals, but breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, machine learning, simulation, sensors, and other areas are helping to make powder bed fusion more predictable and faster to deploy.
Powder bed fusion (PBF), the method of melting metal particles together using a heat source, has become a popular form of metal AM due to its multiple benefits. PBF printers have a higher resolution and a wider range of materials than other processes such as binder jetting, making them more appealing to a wider market. IDTechEx discovered that PBF is anticipated to be a prominent process in the field of metal AM in the next decade, based on demand for and revenue from PBF materials, through in-depth interviews with numerous industry leaders.
- Pushing the building envelope- The building envelope of PBF processes is often limited in size. PBF additive manufacturing, on the other hand, are attempting to push that boundary, and PBF could help in the production of huge parts at a low cost.
- Increasing the rate of production- Various factors in PBF processes can be tweaked to boost output. Many lasers on multiple axes inside PBF machines, such as TRUMPF’s TruPrint 1000 or TruLaser Cell 3000, can boost production rate and volume.
- Complex components without supports- Complex parts can now be built without the use of supports. Not only does this eliminate the need for post-processing, but it also gets around the 45-degree restriction, which requires supports at angles less than 45 degrees. By eliminating the requirement for support, users can create more complex geometries, giving them more creative control and freedom.
Despite recent advancements, PBF remains an imperfect AM approach with several drawbacks that limit its application. Parts produced using metal PBF processes may contain flaws that must be corrected during post-processing. Post-processing of these pieces entails removing unsintered powder, removing the platform, and removing the support, at the very least. Because of issues with the part’s appearance, such as the existence of layer lines, the part is frequently polished. Furthermore, the mechanical qualities of items printed with PBF may need to be tweaked after printing. Heat treatments, for example, are frequently required to eliminate porosity and minimize internal tensions. Beyond that, there have been advancements in software for manufacturing and management.