Cal Poly's 3-D printer can melt metal powder into any shape
Cal Poly’s College of Engineering on Friday celebrated the arrival of a selective laser melting machine — think 3-D printing with metal — that will give students hands-on experience with cutting edge technology.
“There’s no limit. If you can imagine it, you can make it,” Stephen Burke said.
Burke is a mechanical coordinator for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a Bay Area-based government-sponsored facility responsible for “ensuring the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent,” according to a Cal Poly statement.
The LLNL loaned Cal Poly the selective laser melting machine on an indefinite basis. The machine, worth around $500,000, is a smaller version of one located at the LLNL site.
The machine works by melting down metal powder and then fusing it together, fabricating parts from a digital file. While it is capable of working with virtually any weldable metal, the samples on hand at Friday’s ceremony were made from powdered stainless steel.
Benefits of 3-D printing, also called “additive manufacturing,” include up to 70 percent weight reduction without sacrificing mechanical performance, as well as lower lead times and cost, according to Cal Poly.
“Additive manufacturing works by adding layers of material to a base, rather than the traditional process of removing material.”