A Unique Take on 3D Metal Printing: Custom Materials Engineering

Fabrisonic, with its staff of five (four of which are metallurgists), has perfected the art of ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM), a process that bonds strips of metal foil.

Traditionally used since the 1970s to manufacture electronic circuits, the ultrasonic-welding process used at Fabrisonic has been upsized by installing the welding setup onto a large three-axis CNC mill. Basically, high-frequency acoustic vibrations imparted to metallic strips remove the oxide coating on the strips to allow what occurs naturally—solid-state bonding.

Bonding materials in this way to additively build up structures creates fully dense products with consistent material properties throughout.  An example of such a product being made using UAM: critical electronic components that provide radiation shielding, by layering tantalum and Type 6061 aluminum to create one monolithic panel.

Their machine is additive-subtractive, meaning that at any time throughout the 3D metal-printing process they can stop and machine in a groove or passage, and either insert a device (a sensor, for example) into the groove or just weld over the passage.

Other products that can be produced this way include a fiberoptic Bragg grating (FBG) fiberoptic cable (20 to 30 m long) is embedded into grooves machined in the UAM buildup and then welded over and creating complex internal features within 3D-printed parts such as wave guides and heat exchangers.

Embedded fiber optic cable

Embedded fiber optic cable (Source: Fabrisonic)

>>Read more by Brad Kuvin, 3D Printing Magazine, October 20, 2016