In Cameri, a town on the outskirts of Milan, Italy, a company has been 3-D printing metal airplane parts since December 2013. Avio Aero's plant there is one of the world's largest metal 3-D printer operations.
The plant uses what is known as the powder bed method to mass-produce primarily aircraft parts. The method involves shining an electron beam or laser on a flat surface on which metallic powder has been spread out. Only the powder in the cross-sectional shape desired is sintered. Thin layers are formed one by one until the desired 3-D shape is achieved.
High-output electron beams are used to manufacture parts from titanium-aluminium alloys or from 6-4 titanium alloy. This is the most commonly used titanium alloy. It includes 6 per cent aluminium and 4 per cent vanadium.
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