What is Binder Jetting?
Binder Jetting — also known as powder-bed and inkjet — is a cost-effective, low-energy method of 3D printing that allows for fabricating parts out of powder media. In this additive manufacturing process, a machine uses the same powder-spreading methods as selective laser sintering (SLS). However, unlike SLS, a liquid binding agent is used to adhere parts instead of a laser. These prints follow a 3D rendering from a CAD file. Once formed, these parts need to either be cured (if they are plastic) or sintered (if they are metal) to yield a useful part.
Binder Jetting is usually cost effective because it’s both low energy and uses affordable materials. It uses less energy as a laser is not required, and produces parts quickly, resulting in a lower operating cost per part. The technology is precise and its production is scalable, making it ideal for high-volume production of small, accurate parts and objects.
Binder Jetting is used in a variety of applications -- including the manufacturing of full-color prototypes, large sand-casting cores and molds on the plastic/ceramic side and small, functional parts on the metal side. Binder Jetting plastics is a well-developed, mature technology; the same process used for metal parts is in an earlier stage of development.
Binder Jetting or binder jet 3D printing technology was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to print complex parts in industrial-grade materials.
Binder Jetting Advantages and Disadvantages
As mentioned above, Binder Jetting is faster and more cost-effective than many 3D printing technologies. Binder Jetting machines can print quickly by using multiple heads to jet binding material in several places simultaneously, turning out tens or even hundreds of parts in a single build. However, metal parts produced by Binder Jetting have inferior mechanical properties than DMLS/SLM parts; delicate parts may be brittle and may be damaged during post processing. For now, the choice of materials used in Binder Jetting is narrow.
Does Binder Jetting use heat or lasers in the build process? Binder Jetting is unique in that it does not use heat to cure parts, so avoids the warping and residual stresses that can be caused by heat. Build chambers are often heated, but not to the level that a conventional 3D printer would see.
Does Binder Jetting require a build plate or scaffold? No, because parts are sustained by the loose powder in a job box, which eliminates the need for additional structures and supports.
What materials can be used in Binder Jetting? Metals, sand (for ceramics), silica, and polymers.
Is Binder Jetting suitable for creating metal parts with tight tolerances? Yes, depending on materials used and method of binding.
Is Binder Jetting faster than other 3D printing techniques? Yes and no. Binder Jetting a single part may be slow due to post processing times, but for batch production it is very fast. Post-process steps like sintering or those taken to improve the surface, add color, or coat parts will take additional time.