Discover Benelux | Flemish Additive Manufacturing | Create Reality from your Imagination
The new era of metal 3D-printing TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | PHOTOS: VALCUN
Though most 3D-printers use plastics, the production industry holds many opportunities for metal additive manufacturing as well. Today, however, the enormous price tag and the slow building rates prevent many companies from taking the leap. The Flemish start-up ValCUN is about to change that. They are creating an affordable and fast metal 3D-printer which delivers top-notch quality.
“In 2014, I was developing a rocket engine in my spare time,” ValCUN founder, Dr. Jonas Galle, explains. “I did everything myself: from calculating the data to creating the design, as well as the manufacturing of its components. During the milling of the complex main engine’s parts, I started to understand the benefits of metal 3D-printing. Diving deeper into it, I was shocked by how expensive the technology was. I found it hard to believe that 70 | Issue 62 | February 2019
it had to be that expensive.” Triggered by this factor, Galle started investigating the causes of such a high price and how they could be avoided or replaced. This resulted in the creation of his disruptive technology and the founding of ValCUN. To date, most metal additive manufacturing systems use a very fine metal powder that is spread out layer per layer, and molten with a high-power laser. This method is very slow and asks for lots of unnecessary extra metal powder, an expensive product which must be stocked carefully to prevent powder explosions or people inhaling it. “We threw all of this overboard, dared to take a big step back and asked ourselves: ‘How can we make it economically competitive?’. We came up with a patent-pending technology that combines the advantages of both low-cost plastic printing (fused deposition modelling) and plasma cutting technology, and baptised our Molten Metal Deposition. We melt raw
metal and extrude it through a nozzle on a preheated surface, just like a pastry chef does with molten chocolate.”
Recycled metals ValCUN’s technology has several advantages over the existing ones. Since metal gets molten prior to printing, it is unnecessary to use expensive metal powders. Instead, you can opt for standard metal wires, raw metals or even recycled ones. You can throw old or broken parts into the
ValCUN-cofounders Dr. Ir. Jonas Galle and Dr. Ir. Jan De Pauw
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