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3D Printing Metals: What are the options?


Sculpteo offers 3D printing using high-end metal printers in a range of metals and metal-polymer blends. Discover the advantage, applications of metal 3D printing and the different material available at Sculpteo!

What is Metal 3D Printing?

Metal 3D printing is similar to 3D printing with polymers but uses metals as the material. Forms are created in successive layers by melting a metal feedstock or by using metal powders that are fused into layers under high heat. Metal 3D printing is used to create everything from works of art to functional prototypes and machine parts. Virtually any metal can be used in 3D printing, from aluminum to refractory metals such as titanium.

What are the advantages of Metal 3D Printing?

  • Create impossible design

While using 3D printing in general, you can create parts impossible to make with other manufacturing techniques. Additive manufacturing rethinks the way you design your products, try out innovative structures perfectly adapted to the use of your product. You have the possibility to work on new designs, and print complex parts.

  • Optimize costs

Manufacturing metal parts can quickly become expensive, but while working with a 3D printing service such as Sculpteo, you can optimize and reduce your costs. You don’t need to invest into metal 3D printers to make the most of all metal 3D printing material. Upload your 3D model to get an instant quote now.

  • Reduce waste

With 3D printing, you only use the amount of material needed to manufacture your part. That is how additive manufacturing works! As the process works by adding layers of material until the product is complete, you get your object printed with the exact amount of material needed.

  • Topology optimization 

Using a 3D modeling software offers many advantages. You have a total control on the object that will be manufactured. It is the perfect method to optimize directly the design of your project, by modifying the shape or adding structures such as lattices. 3D printing allows to optimize your part by reducing weight, or work on the resistance of the part.

What are the application of Metal 3D printing

Metal 3D printing can be a real advantage for numerous different industries, here is a selection of three sectors where this technology is quite interesting.

  • Aerospace industry

The weight of the components is the main issue in this industry. The use of lightweight components is essential for creating either an airplane or a rocket. Why? Because it takes a tremendous amount of energy and gasoline to manufacture just to lift those automobiles off the ground. The lighter the plane or rocket, the better.

A 3D-printed part’s weight can be reduced in a variety of ways. One is hollowing out the pieces, which is frequently not achievable using the conventional manufacturing process.

Another is to fill the components with latticework, which keeps the parts strong but light.

Complex geometries, which are necessary in this business and enable the engineers to create completely original design solutions, are another attribute that additive manufacturing provides.

Last advantage, however, it really applies to any industry, is the ultimate personalization. Metal 3D printing allows you to design customized tools, jigs, and fixtures. Some parts have to be unique, dedicated just to fix a specific problem

  • Automotive industry

Together with modern design approaches and lightweight components, the car sector also needs quick production. All stages of production in this industry can benefit from additive manufacturing.

By providing the engineering with fresh prototypes quickly, it can already enhance the functional prototyping process. Also, it is quick because all that is required to test a new feature is to add it to the 3D model and send it straight to production.

  • Jewelry

Jewelry is only one of the numerous industries where 3D printing promises less material waste and lower manufacturing costs. Only the material required to construct the part is fussed with since the pieces are being created layer by layer. Thanks to the ideal master model, 3D printing is also fantastic for creating molds.

Metal Filament

Metal filament printing is very similar to the familiar polymer printing process. A filament, which can be 100 per cent metal or a metal-polymer blend, is fed into the printer where it is melted and extruded into the desired form. Sculpteo offers metal filament printing in two different materials, Ultrafuse® 316L Stainless Steel and Ultrafuse® 17-4 PH Stainless Steel. These are industrial-grade filaments developed by BASF for professional uses. They deliver impressive mechanical performance at a low production cost. Ultrafuse® 316L Stainless Steel is a steel-polymer blend ideal for creating functional parts. Ultrafuse® 17-4 PH is a steel filament and performs very well under higher loads. Both are ideal for use in corrosive environments.

Ultrafuse® 17-4 PH

DMLS/SLM Technology

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) and Selective Laser Melting (SLM) are similar technologies, both relying on powder bed fusion (PBF). By melting successive layers of metal powder, DMLS and SLM can be used to create very complex parts. These methods are ideal for producing prototypes or parts for low-volume production. DMLS and SLM are especially useful when very high levels of detail and complexity are required, as they can produce fine detail that isn’t possible with many other methods. The metal items produced have exceptional mechanical properties. Sculpteo offers DMLS/SLM printing in aluminum, titanium and stainless steel.

Aluminum AISi7Mg0,6

Binder Jetting

The binder jetting technique also uses powdered materials. Unlike DMLS or SLM, a binder (adhesive) is used to fuse the powder together in successive layers. Each layer is then cured (hardened) before the next layer is added. Binder jetting doesn’t use heat and produces items with good mechanical properties. It’s ideal for producing designs with a high level of detail, especially if there are time constraints — binder jetting can be completed in an impressively short amount of time when compared to other methods. Sculpteo offers binder jetting in Steel/Bronze 420SS/BR, ideal for decorative objects, and Stainless Steel 316L, which is stronger and better suited for mechanical applications.

Stainless Steel 316

Wax Casting

Unlike the other methods discussed above, wax casting does not involve directly printing objects with metal. Instead, the material used for the print is a special hard wax. This wax is 3D printed into the desired master form and then plaster is poured over it to create a plaster mould. This mould can then be used again and again to cast copies of the object. This is a great option when many copies are needed and an elegant and aesthetic finish is desired. It’s particularly useful for manufacturing small parts with a high degree of quality and an appealing finish. Wax casting is widely used to create jewellery and works of art, as well as for more practical applications. Sculpteo offers wax casting in high-quality bronze, brass and silver.


Are you looking for a metal 3D printing service?

Do you think metal 3D printing could become an asset for your business. Don’t wait any longer and make the most of Sculpteo’s experience. Our team if here to support you if you need help. If you already have your 3D file, you can upload it, select your metal material and get your free instant quote.

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