Ford Authority

Ford, ExOne Announce Industry-First Binder Jet 3D Printing, High-Density Sintering


Ford Motor Company and ExOne, a provider of 3D industrial 3D printing systems and services, have announced that a team of engineers, material scientists, and manufacturing experts has developed a patent-pending process for rapid and reliable binder jet 3D printing and sintering of aluminum that delivers properties comparable to die casting.

Researchers have been trying to accomplish these tasks for over a decade now, to no avail. As such, both Ford and ExOne are expected to file collaborative and individual patents as a result of their ongoing collaborative project.

Certain aluminum alloys were already able to be 3D printed using lasers, but this new process does the job much faster. It’s expected that the breakthrough will allow Ford to affordably produce complex components designed for additive manufacturing, which enables size and weight reductions, part consolidation, and performance improvements, with increased efficiency.

Binder jet 3D printing is considered to be the fastest method of metal 3D printing for high-volume output. It uses a digital file to quickly inkjet a binder into a bed of powder particles such as metal, sand, or ceramic to create a solid part, one thin layer at a time.

When printing metals, the final bound metal part must be sintered in a furnace to fuse the particles together into a solid object. The heating process reinforces the strength and integrity of the metal, and while the process for sintering stainless steel is well understood, achieving high densities greater than 99 percent is an industry breakthrough for aluminum.

“This is a breakthrough in making 3D printed and sintered parts for the auto industry,” said Harold Sears, Ford’s technical leader for additive manufacturing. “While the 3D-printing process is very different than stamping body panels, we understand the behavior of aluminum better today, as well as its value in light-weighting vehicles. High-speed aluminum 3D printing paves the way for other opportunities that we’re just now starting to take a look at because of the ability to do complex parts with aluminum that previously weren’t possible. It’s really opening doors for other opportunities.”

“Developing a fast, affordable, and easy way to 3D print aluminum with traditional material properties is a critical step toward light-weighting more products and delivering a more sustainable future,” said John Hartner, ExOne CEO. “Our world-class engineers and scientists are focused on solving the toughest problems with 3D printing technology, and this achievement is a real win for all of us.”

We’ll have more on this intriguing project soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for non-stop Ford news coverage.


Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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  1. Ford Owner

    That tiny V6 engine block is a great demonstration sample of the quality that this 3-D system is able to produce. I hope this also helps lower manufacturing cost which must be passed down to the customer.

  2. JimL

    ExOne is part of a great company in Irwin PA, called ExtrudeHone. Anyone running Fox-body Mustang 5.0’s remembers ExtrudeHone for their abrasive putty media which polished your heads’ intake & exhaust ports, and the runners of your upper & lower intake manifolds. Great company, great people.

    1. Mark L Bedel

      ExtrudeHone, a great company for sure!

  3. Ryan

    Very cool. Just one small fact to interject, binder jet is only the fastest method if you are producing lots of parts that can be nested to fill up that entire build volume. It takes the same amount of time to print no matter if you have 1 or 100 parts nested in that job. So for one-off parts it’s not very efficient, for high volume it’s amazing.

    The biggest issue with metal 3D printing is the parts shrink when you bake them. The software will compensate as best it can, but the larger the part the worse your accuracy is. And if you have thin parts they tend to warp. This is why you typically only see very small metal 3D printed parts, like this miniature engine block as opposed to a full size block.

  4. PD

    While the comment about filling up your build volume is more or less correct on throughput, the comment about larger parts and thinner parts is a sweeping generalization. ExOne has showcased large engine blocks as well, albeit in stainless steel, and has a wide variety of customers it services with large parts.

    It has nothing to do with “software.” The design engineer will provide scaling factors to alter the part, and while the shrink rates are high, as long as green density is uniform, this can be predictable and will result in tolerances comparable to castings. This is even for large parts. It should be noted that Exones latest spreading technology in the triple ACT Reports green density variation in the range of 0.1%.

    I’ll add one other note that ExOne is no longer a part of extrude hone, though they too are an awesome company with very exciting tech for polishing additive parts.

  5. Scott Willis

    Polished exhaust is beneficial. However I have been told that you want the intake port non-polished, because turbulence improves the fuel-air mixing. You *want* any streams of fuel to be broken up.


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