Tungsten 3D Printing to Achieve 70μm

The tungsten 3D printing has been raised to a new level. Recently, a video of using selective laser melting (SLM) technology to produce 20 highly flexible tungsten sheets with a thickness of only 70μm has been demonstrated by the Additive Manufacturing Department of The Welding Institute (TWI), an independent research and technology organization established by the British Welding Research Association.

Tungsten, a refractory metal, is known as one of the toughest things found in nature. It is super dense and almost impossible to melt. It is very resistant to corrosion and has the highest melting point and highest tensile strength of any element. Its strength comes when it is made into compounds, though. Pure tungsten is soft and laser powder bed technology is prone to defects such as micro-cracks, which limits the application of tungsten 3D printing.

tungsten metal for 3D printing image

Despite the challenges, tungsten has proven itself as a valuable 3D printing material. Tungsten and its alloys are widely used in the electronics and electric light source industries. They are also used to make rocket nozzles, die-casting molds, armor-piercing bullet cores, contacts, heating elements, and heat shields in aerospace, casting, weapons, and other sectors. In addition, the pure tungsten grid manufactured by 3D printing is particularly suitable for the CT machine.

Tungsten components for 3D printing have begun commercialization. Domestic and foreign manufacturers have developed tungsten powder and printing processes suitable for 3D printing five years ago, and even have customized equipment delivered to customers, so it is enough to see that there is a market demand for tungsten 3D printing.

3D printing is very effective for manufacturing thin-walled parts, which brings great manufacturing freedom to the collimating aperture angle and shape of the collimator of the CT machine. Many domestic manufacturers also regard the minimum wall thickness of printable pure tungsten as an important publicity parameter. According to reports, the minimum wall thickness generally achieved at present is 0.1mm.

the 3D printing image

The hardness of tungsten carbide and other such composites also has its drawback. Its hardness makes it a difficult material to create models using traditional manufacturing techniques like CNC and tooling. Additive manufacturing by its nature could prove to be a solution to this problem. The flexible 70μm sheet for tungsten 3D printing exhibited by TWI with a large aspect ratio reached a new level of minimum wall thickness.