China develops ZcompleX, an electron beam additive manufacturing machine to compete with Sciaky

Chinese company Xi’an ZhiRong has unveiled a new electron beam additive manufacturing (EBAM) machine. The ZcompleX uses an electron beam approach for additive manufacturing that involves the use of a metallic wire feedstock.

Until now, the Chicago-based company Sciaky has been the sole developer of EBAM machines, which it considers the fastest metal 3D printing process in the world.

ZcompleX 3D printed part.

Sciaky Inc.

According to Sciaky, its EBAM technology is a “One-of-a-kind metal additive manufacturing technology that… excels in producing large-scale, high-value metal parts ”. The process is used in a main machine of System 110, which has been used to manufacture components for submarines and Airbus aircraft.

The method uses an electron beam to deposit metal layer by layer and create a 3D structure, similar to the FDM process.

Illustration of Sciaky's EBAM process.  Image via Sciaky.
Illustration of Sciaky’s EBAM process. Image via Sciaky.

ZcompleX electron beam additive manufacturing

Xi’an ZhiRong refers to his EBAM technique as “EBVF3 vector technology” and the process can be seen in operation in a video from the Chinese network CCTV + (integrated below).

The ZcompleX 3D printer has a vacuum chamber and a maximum build size of 1000 x 600 x 500mm. It also uses a 15kW electron beam to form metallic 3D structures. Guo Guangyao, Chief of Xi’an ZhiRong, says:

The modeling process takes place in a vacuum environment, so that no pore will be generated during the production of the metal parts, and the compactness of the products can reach 100%. In this way, the fatigue resistance properties of metal parts will be greatly improved. The system can be used to produce parts for large frame or beam structures, such as satellite storage tanks or carrier rocket fuel tanks,

Published photos of parts produced in the ZcompleX have undergone post-processing to remove visible layers.

Post-processed part produced by the ZcompleX.
Post-processed part produced by the ZcompleX.

What is also remarkable about the ZcompleX machine is that Xi’an ZhiRong has filed 20 patents relating to the technology it contains. This means that the company could protect some of the technology related to electron beam additive manufacturing.

Full details of these patents are so far under wraps, so it will be interesting to see the answer once the details are released.

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Image featured the ZcompleX machine.

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