Metal 3D Printing With BLT
BLT, also known as Xian Bright Laser Technologies, is one of the major Chinese providers of metal 3D printing technology.
We recently had a chance to speak with them to find out more about their company and products.
The company, based in Xian, China, was founded in 2011 after considerable research on additive manufacturing processes that had begun previously in 1995. After much work they released their first metal 3D printer in 2015.
The company now employs 330 staff, certainly one of the larger 3D printing employers in the industry. Their current plant is 2,500sqm (27,000sf) and they’re in the process of building an enormous 40,000sm (430,000sf) new facility to enable massive future expansion.
Currently they offer a portfolio of no fewer than eight powerful metal 3D printers, and surprisingly two different metal 3D printing processes are used by the company.
Their S-series machines employ the familiar powder bed-laser approach, in which thin layers of fine metal powder are selectively sintered with a moving laser beam. The sintering takes place in an atmosphere-controlled chamber to eliminate the possibility of explosion from oxygen reacting to the metals, and to maintain powder quality during printing.
Their C-series machines use an entirely different 3D printing process they call “LFF”. It’s said to be similar to direct energy deposition, in which a flow of powder towards a target is fused at the last moment by a powerful laser. This approach allows for much more rapid 3D printing, but at the cost of surface quality.
Thus the BLT line provides solutions for two types of business needs.
From the prints we observed, it seems that the BLT equipment can certainly produce highly accurate complex metal 3D prints.
This unusual print, for example, shows a complex combination of high detail, thin walls, smooth surfaces and very large size. It’s actually 1.1m tall and is made from a titanium alloy on the BLT-S500 metal 3D printer.
Here you can see the level of fine detail on this rather large metal 3D print.
Another sample here shows the possibilities available with their C-series equipment, which uses the other metal 3D printing process. There is little fine surface detail, but instead we have a very strong part that’s designed using a sparse approach to minimize the amount of material required. This part would be incredibly difficult to produce using traditional manufacturing approaches.
Up until recently we had not heard much from BLT, as they seem to have been spending most of their time marketing in Asia. But now that seems to have changed, as we now see a powerful new metal 3D printing vendor breaking into the rest of the world.