Tech Update


New Software Overcomes Shrinkage and Other Sintering Challenges

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Desktop Metal, Inc. has launched Live Sinter, software that corrects for the shrinkage and distortion that parts typically experience during sintering, and also enables printing of geometries that, without the software, would present significant challenges to sinter.

Live Sinter eliminates the trial and error required to achieve high-accuracy parts via powder metallurgy-based additive manufacturing (AM) processes such as binder jetting. By improving the shape and dimensional tolerances of sintered parts, first-time part success for complex geometries is improved and the cost and time associated with post-processing are minimized, according to company officials, who not that in many cases, the software enables parts to be sintered without the use of supports.

See how the use of Live Sinter (bottom), a new software program from Desktop Metal, corrects for the shrinkage and distortion that parts typically experience during sintering.

While compatible with any sintering-based powder metallurgy process, including metal injection molding, Live Sinter will first be available to customers of Desktop Metal’s Shop System, shipping now, and Production System, shipping in 2021.

Sintering, a critical step in powder metallurgy-based manufacturing processes, including binder jetting, involves heating parts to near melting in order to impart strength and integrity, and typically causes parts to shrink by as much as 20 percent from their original printed or molded dimensions. During the process, improperly supported parts also face significant risk of deformation, resulting in parts that emerge from the furnace cracked, distorted or requiring costly post-processing to achieve dimensional accuracy. Until the debut of Live Sinter, trial and error represented the best approach for dealing with sintering challenges, note Desktop Metal officials.

Live Sinter, which can be calibrated to a variety of alloys, predicts the shrinkage and distortion that parts undergo during sintering, and automatically compensates for such changes, creating ‘negative-offset’ geometries that, once printed, will sinter to the original, intended design specifications. These negative offsets are the result of a GPU-accelerated iterative process, in which the software proactively pre-deforms part geometries by precise amounts in specific directions, allowing them to achieve their intended shape as they sinter.

“Live Sinter was developed by joining forces with, instead of fighting against, sintering-based challenges,” says Andy Roberts, Desktop Metal vice president of software. “In doing so, the software generates negative-offset part geometries that sinter to the intended shapes and dimensional specifications. It also tackles some of sintering’s biggest challenges, such as the use of setters. For years, creating setters that prop up parts in the furnace relied on the intuition of few engineers with years of hands-on experience. Now, the process is easier, more predictable and more controllable using Live Sinter.”

Live Sinter reportedly can simulate a typical sintering furnace cycle in as little as 5 min. and generate negative-offset geometries that compensate for shrinkage and distortion in as little as 15 min. This compares favorably to more general-purpose simulation tools that use complex meshes and require complex setups and hours to complete, according to company officials. And, the software can be calibrated to new materials, sintering hardware and process parameters with minimal additional effort.  


See also: Desktop Metal, Inc.

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