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3D printing in steel. Rawlplug's game-changing innovation

3 min

Take a look behind the scenes of the R&D Department, learn more about the steel 3D printing process, and witness the moment of removing inserts after 300 hours of printing.

The modern technology of 3D printing in steel saves time and increases the efficiency of many processes, from prototyping, testing, and relieving the milling machines and other equipment at the Tool Shop of some load to production, broadly understood. Setting trends in the industry, Rawlplug invested in appropriate equipment and the development of a highly specialised 3D Printing Laboratory last year, which quickly began to bear fruit, for example in terms of injection mould design and conformal cooling

3D printing process. Precision and efficiency

3D printing in steel is a multi-stage process that requires highly accurate control. Every step is crucial to achieving high-quality outputs.

Stages of print preparation:

  • preparing the right model
  • preparing the printout program 
  • preparing the printer and charging its chambers with steel powder
  • setting up the chambers and laying out the first layer of powder
  • atmosphere control before printing

Post-3D printing steel working

After printing, moulds require additional mechanical working. This ensures the highest quality of the final product.

Stages of mechanical working:

  • cutting off supports
  • surface smoothing
  • polishing and removing excess material

Safety during the steel 3D printing process

Working with metal powders requires special precautions (see photos), and not only because of the steel used for printing, the particles of which can penetrate the skin. Although argon – the gas that provides the protective atmosphere in the printer chamber – does not pose a threat to humans in itself, it is heavier than air, which  – in the event of emergency leaks – can result in oxygen being cut off in the laboratory room. That is why Rawlplug uses: 

  • advanced ventilation systems
  • personal protective equipment for employees
  • constant atmosphere and temperature control during printing

Costs and efficiency of 3D printing in steel

The steel 3D printing process is costly, but at the same time, it enables significant savings to be achieved through reduced processing time and optimised production. The costs include not only materials, but also the operation of the equipment.

Cost factors:

  • weight and complexity of the print
  • print height
  • cost of materials and equipment operation

Growth through innovation strategy

3D printing in steel makes it possible to achieve exceptional precision while creating elements that are demanding in many respects, and guarantees the quality of products and services which our customers expect. In order to maintain the highest standards, for which Rawlplug is known all over the world, we regularly test the hardness and quality of prints in the new metallography laboratory – the latest addition to the R&D Department.

The new units have been established within the Research and Development Department as a direct result of Rawlplug’s consistent implementation of a strategy based on the development of employee competences and investment in modern tools and processes throughout the company. Rawlplug has been setting innovative trends in the sectors of fixings, fasteners and power tools for years. Thanks to the well-thought-out investments in cutting-edge technologies, such as 3D printing in steel, we not only increase our efficiency, but are also able to create advanced prototypes, which is crucial for future projects.

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