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3D Printing

What is 3D Printing?

Using a 3D printer you can produce simple components, intricate parts and structures including a house! By depositing through a nozzle or even a spray the 3D printer builds up layers. Using Computer Aided Design software a part can be designed and this can be sent to a printer. The nozzle will move around and deposit a viscous fluid to build the desired item.

There are many ways and fluids and size of nozzles to carry out the 3D printing process. Deposits are usually a polymer fluid, metallic powder with a polymer fluid or a slurry that can readily stabilize to form the item.

This process is fast compared to machining, less waste raw materials and one-off’s can be made for research, prototyping or obsolete parts relatively easily. 3D printers are becoming common items for many Company and Educational facilities to have in-house. This is technology that in recent years has really grown in popularity, and is still predicted to grow in the future.

Why does PCT have an interest in 3D Printing?

When depositing certain fluids particularly metal, it requires an inert atmosphere to produce the solidifying metal from the oxygen in in air. This is exciting for PCT, as we are the sole distributor in the UK for Alicat Instruments, these include the Mass Flow Controllers used to control the flow rate of gas!

What gas is used in 3D Printing?

Typically an inert gas is required to protect the depositing layer as it comes out of the nozzle to protect O2 from changing the properties as it solidifies. Gases such as N2 and Argon are used as the inert gas. These gases are readily available and easy to control the flow rate to create the inert screen around the printing area. Alicat MC Series Mass Flow Controllers (MFC's) are perfect for this application. With a built in database of up to 98 gases to select from, simply select the gas to be used, enter the flow rate and the MFC delivers instant gas flow rate control to the printing surface.

OEM flow controllers for 3D printing

PCT offer OEM instruments suited to the 3D Printer manufacturer such as the BC Series of low cost Mass Flow Controllers available in quantities of 50+.

The BC Series is a MEMS Sensor technology Mass Flow Controller with a very fast response time of up to 100ms response. Moreover, the 3D printer design often needs a small footprint MFC, the BC Series meets this as the smallest MFC at only Height 2.620 inches, Width 2.500 inches, Depth 0.875 inches for the 100–1000 sccm flow rate models. Below is a video demonstration of the BC series:

Video demo: Alicat BC Series

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