Knowledge Center


Metal Parts

Metal additive manufacturing (AM) is possible with a range of 3D printing technologies but those most commonly used for production parts are wire or powder deposition, powder bed fusion (PBF), and binder jetting. These processes allow for the manufacturing of complex designs not possible with machining or casting, as well as the use of materials that may not be well-suited to these other processes. Titanium, for instance, is difficult to machine but relatively easy to print via deposition or PBF. Deposition is often the process best suited to large parts such as propellant tanks and structural components (and can easily be combined with machining in the same platform for a hybrid manufacturing approach), while PBF and binder jetting are more commonly applied to small, complex components needed in higher quantities such as aerospace fuel injectors, medical implants and consolidated assemblies of automotive parts, for example.

A manufacturer’s ability to achieve performance or manufacturing gains from metal AM requires influence at the design stage. OEMs are in a good position to benefit because they can control all parts of the manufacturing process from design through finished product. Cobra Moto and Cobra Aero, sister companies specializing in youth motocross bikes and unmanned aerial vehicles respectively, have both benefited from in-house metal 3D printing alongside conventional machining and molding capabilities. As described in the video below (an episode of The Cool Parts Show), the addition of a powder bed fusion system has delivered performance and manufacturing advantages for its products:

Reaching the Tipping Point for Production Additive Manufacturing

This article illustrates how Incodema3D has grown into this role and now manufactures thousands of metal 3D printed parts per month.



3D Printing Changes the Design of a Drone Engine

For Cobra Aero, youth motorcycles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have something in common: small engines. The company spawned from a competition motorcycle maker produces engines for UAVs used for research and military reconnaissance. But making a drone engine more powerful entailed using additive manufacturing in place of conventional manufacturing, and this started Cobra on a journey of reimagining the engine.

Directed Energy Deposition

Directed energy deposition (DED) applies metal powder or wire to build up a part in a process similar to welding. Deposition heads are commonly mounted on gantries, machine tool spindles or robot arms as shown in this system developed by Lincoln Electric.

Powder Bed Fusion

Powder bed fusion metal 3D printers utilize an electron or laser beam (shown here in this Renishaw printer) to selectively melt metal powder and build up the part. The process is especially useful for small, complex items like medical implants.


Design Issues

Two common design strategies used in conjunction with 3D printing are topology optimization and generative design.

Build Preparation and Parameters

Many additive manufacturers rely on build simulation to check parameters and identify errors before they happen.

Validating Quality

There are two main challenges to ensuring quality in 3D printed parts: inspecting and validating final parts, and controlling the process itself.