Studio System customers worldwide can now 3D print mold inserts, extrusion dies, and sheet metal tooling in H13 tool steel. (Photo: Business Wire)

BURLINGTON, Mass.—Desktop Metal, Inc., has expanded its materials portfolio with the launch of H13 tool steel for its Studio System™, an office-friendly metal 3D printing system for prototyping and low volume production. Characterized by its stability in heat treatment, exceptional hot hardness, and abrasion resistance, H13 is a tool steel widely used in hot work applications. High toughness and hardness also make it an ideal metal for cold work tooling applications, the company said in a press release.

“Expanding the Studio System materials portfolio to include H13 tool steel enables designers and engineers to print mold inserts, extrusion dies, forging dies, and sheet metal tooling, including stamping, embossing, bending, and countersinking,” said Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal, in the release. “This is a key competitive advantage to enable rapid iteration and refinement of tools requiring H13, and the reduction of manufacturing lead times. Teams will also be able to achieve complex geometries that have not been possible with traditional manufacturing methods, like machining.”

Early applications of H13 parts printed with the Studio System illustrate the benefits across a variety of industries.

Medical: Mouthpiece Injection Mold Core

Injection mold cores are used for the molding of mouthpieces for asthma inhalers. H13 is an ideal material for this part due to its hot hardness and abrasion resistance, the company said.

During the injection molding process, the cooling of a mold like this can account for up to 95 percent of the mold’s entire cycle time. By 3D printing the mold with the Studio System instead, the part can incorporate a conformal cooling channel that closely follows the molding surface profile, increasing the cooling rate of the mold. This dramatically reduces the mold’s cycle time, which may allow more parts to be molded every hour. Furthermore, 3D printing the mold to near net shape will reduce the wear on EDM tooling required to finish the mold, reducing lead time and costs.

“Wear resistance, high hardness, toughness, and resistance to thermal fatigue are just a few of H13’s benefits,” said Chris Aiello, operations manager at Alpha Precision Group, in the release. “The downside was always getting a tool maker to want to work with it. Now that it is available with the Studio System, all of these same benefits will be ready to deploy to the shop floor in days, rather than months.

“At Alpha Precision Group, our customers want to go to market faster,” Aiello continued. “Design validation, biocompatibility, and market testing are just a few of the gates that our customers may need to pass; being able to get them there sooner by using printed H13 tooling and fixturing from the Studio System will be a significant competitive advantage.”

Industry: Extrusion Die

The complex geometry of an extrusion die often makes it a difficult part to machine. This limits the ability of manufacturers to iterate on the extrusion die design, due in part to the high lead time and cost of machining. At the same time, the part must be able to withstand the extreme temperatures and pressures required to successfully push molten materials through the extrusion die. As an alternative, 3D printing in H13 tool steel enables design teams to quickly and easily produce dies featuring complex extrusion profiles that were previously unattainable via machining, according to Desktop Metal.

Fashion/Consumer Products: Zipper Die Casting Mold

The mold for a zinc zipper that is attached to an article of clothing features numerous fine details, such as a logo, textures, and subtle draft angles that are critical to the part’s molding success. Desktop Metal said that by 3D printing with its Studio System’s high-resolution nozzle, users can achieve the fine details required for the part and save valuable time and costs versus  traditional methods of machining the mold. The company also said that H13’s hot work capability enables fabricating molds for die casting applications.

“In my experience, 3D printing H13 for sheet metal forming tools and stamping is an opportunity for a competitive advantage that will be hard to match,” said Steve Lynch, director of business development at Macy Industries, Inc. “Breaking the norm of how stamping dies are designed and created will be a huge step for engineering, reducing the time and cost for prototyping new ideas.”

Besides H13, the Studio System materials library also  includes 316L and 17-4 PH stainless steels. Desktop Metal said that it plans to introduce additional core metals, including superalloys, carbon steels, and copper, to its portfolio.

Desktop Metal (www.desktopmetal.com), based in Burlington, Massachusetts, is seeking to accelerate the transformation of manufacturing by making metal 3D printing accessible to engineers and manufacturers around the world. The company was selected as one of the world’s 30 most promising Technology Pioneers by World Economic Forum; named to MIT Technology Review’s list of 50 Smartest Companies; and recognized among the most important innovations in engineering in Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New.”

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