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What is Directed Energy Deposition (DED)


Directed Energy Deposition (DED) 3D printing, also known as Direct Energy Deposition, fabricates parts by melting materials and depositing them directly onto a workpiece, layer by layer. This method can use different materials such as powder, binder, sheets, or extrusion. What sets DED apart is its ability to repair, modify, or add to existing parts, making it highly versatile and practical.


DED 3D printers are generally large industrial machines that require a closed, controlled environment. Typically, a DED setup involves a nozzle mounted on a multi-axis arm within an enclosed frame. The nozzle deposits the melted material onto the surface of the workpiece, where it then solidifies.

Process of Directed Energy Deposition

How Does Directed Energy Deposition Work

The Directed Energy Deposition (DED) process begins with creating a CAD model of the desired part. The CAD models are then converted into machine code, which directs the Directed Energy Deposition machine's movements and energy output. During operation, the machine focuses thermal energy onto a specific location on the substrate, melting the metal powder or wire feedstock material. The machine then follows a predefined path, depositing the melted material layer by layer until the part is complete.


For systems using an electron beam, this process occurs in a vacuum, whereas laser-based systems operate in an inert chamber to handle reactive metals. Alternatively, a shielding gas can be used to protect the part from contamination during the metal 3D printing process.


Directed Energy Deposition is an advanced method of manufacturing that utilizes a specialized machine. To ensure high-quality results, the machine is equipped with monitoring and adjustment tools that compensate for variations in material properties or substrate shape. While the DED process is complex and requires specialized equipment like the AMDRoid, as well as skilled operators, it can produce highly durable and well-functioning components when properly executed.


Usually, the object remains stationary while the arm moves to deposit the material. However, in some cases, a platform that moves while the arm stays still can be used instead.


Application of Directed Energy Deposition

Application of Directed Energy Deposition

Directed Energy Deposition can be used to fabricate parts, but is generally used for repair or to add material to existing components. Generally speaking, the applications for DED fall into three categories; near-net-shape parts, repair, and feature additions.


Near-Net-Shape Parts

Directed Energy Deposition (DED) can create parts comparable to those made with traditional machining. Therefore, DED is best suited for applications where conventional methods are too costly or slow. This makes it ideal for producing parts from expensive or difficult-to-machine metals, such as those used in aerospace brackets, tanks, and ribs. The process is especially beneficial for near-net-shape manufacturing in industries like aerospace, defense, power, and marine. DED offers advantages in product design, time efficiency, and cost savings. However, it is not suitable for small, high-volume production runs due to its fixed cost structure and the need for post-processing.


Repair

Direct Energy Deposition (DED) is becoming a popular alternative to traditional methods for repairing parts. Being an automated process, DED has excellent control and consistency, which is crucial for intricate and precise components. This technology is already being utilized for repairing items like damaged turbine blades and propellers.


Feature Addition

DED (Directed Energy Deposition) can print features onto existing parts, making it for enhancing parts. Thanks to improvements in multi-axis robotics and software, we can create more complex shapes. This is especially beneficial when the feature would be costly to produce with traditional methods.


Additionally, DED can use different metals by switching the feedstock during printing. However, this requires careful planning to ensure the design and bonding properties of the different metals work well together.



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