Printer/powder combination makes metal AM more accessible

A team from the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) has used technologies from Equispheres Inc and Xact Metal to undertake aluminum additive manufacturing, demonstrating that metal AM can be accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses, academia and research facilities.

Using Equispheres’ NExP-1 AM powder, with its safer storage and handling characteristics, researchers at SDU have successfully printed aluminum parts with Xact Metal’s high-quality, low-cost XM200G metal 3D printer. The benefits of additive manufacturing are within reach of more organizations through this combination of a purpose-designed powder for metal AM and printing machinery that aims to make 3D printing more accessible.

“Barriers to the expansion of metal AM are falling. This project illustrates that there are options that make additive manufacturing available to producers wherever, whenever it makes sense for a particular application,” says Evan Butler-Jones, Vice-President – Product & Strategy at Equispheres.

A team at SDU came up with the concept and design for this project several years ago, but it wasn’t until Equispheres introduced its NExP-1 AM powder in 2022 that the group felt confident to proceed. Unlike most aluminum powders, Equispheres’ NExP-1 is characterized as non-explosible and non-combustible, offering a less hazardous option for production 3D printing. It opened the door for SDU to begin working with aluminum for additive manufacturing.

“This project was our first attempt at printing reactive powders,” says Andrei-Alexandru Popa, Additive Manufacturing Lead and Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Denmark. “The safer handling characteristics of Equispheres’ NExP-1 powder made us feel more comfortable using aluminum powder in a university lab setting.”

“After much preparation and support from our friends at Xact Metal and Equispheres, we stepped into uncharted territory – 3D printing NExP-1 aluminum on an XM200G printer. We are the first to try this combination of hardware and feedstock, and I’m thrilled that our success will add another bit of knowledge to the additive manufacturing universe.”

The project emphasizes Xact Metal’s drive to make metal additive manufacturing more accessible and affordable to a broader range of users. “We aim to empower the next generation by making the capabilities of powder-bed fusion 3D printing available to companies of all sizes. Equispheres shares similar goals to foster the enablement of AM by overcoming current barriers, and we are glad to see the success of Equisphere’s unique material on the Xact Metal XM200G at SDU, ” says Juan Mario Gomez, CEO of Xact Metal.

“The positive results experienced by Andrei-Alexandru and the team at SDU are consistent with what we’ve seen with industrial, multi-laser printers using NExP-1,” says Butler-Jones. “NExP-1 retains the best characterisitics of a high-performance AlSi10Mg aluminum powder – faster print speeds and consistent mechanical properties – plus it makes equipment clean-up quicker and easier."