Is there a future for 3D printing watches?
Sintering processes are widely applied for all kinds of product design materials such as plastics, metal, ceramics, etc. From a CAD, the piece is printed resulting in a product with the same shape as designed. The laser fuses different layers of a metal powder tray in an inert atmosphere, the shape has been entered in the machine through the software. After printing, the product is ready to be finished with different operations such as polished, sanded, threaded, if the material we used is from sintered metal.
Sintering advantages are many, for example, a rapid transition from design to 3D printing. The implementation code for sintering a product is not as complex as the machining. Furthermore cutters tools or holders are not necessary for bars and plates, because with the metal power tray is enough and therefore, the logistics are considerably less complex. Also in the powder to sinter tray can be made several pieces with different shapes without loss of material.
Their disadvantages are that the precision achieved is not equal to a machining. For example, the threaded edges can not be sintered, because the walls are very small, whereby the threaded screw is inevitable. Another disadvantage is the finishing because it is difficult to finish with low roughness. Good machining should achieve the piece 1.66 microns roughness Ra = N 7, but with the sintered “only” N 10 equivalent to 0.012 mm roughness is reached. Furthermore, the fusion time is still relatively slow for it to be industrialized for serial watches, but not for prototypes and small series.
The problem is that for the production of watch cases needs 0.001 mm N7 surface roughness . Although the processes of vibratory finishing, can get extremely smooth surfaces, the final process is expensive and longer. They will take more than two to three hours for a good surface finish, without including sintering time. If you have to add some sort of machining, the watch final price goes up. Therefore, this process is still expensive for watches for average price, although some luxury watch brands use it.