Metal 3D Printing

There are a lot of different 3D printing technologies and 3D printing materials actually available on the market. Metal 3D printing is developing really fast, and new technologies, 3D printers and 3D printing materials are unveiled quite regularly. This metal manufacturing process is really promising, giving life to outstanding projects. But metal 3D printing includes different technologies, and it can be a little bit difficult to understand exactly what they are all about. 

How does metal printing work? What are the applications of the metal 3D printing technology? You will learn everything on this page, and we will tell you all you need to know about the benefits of metal printing. 

Keep in mind that thanks to our online 3D printing service, you will be able to choose among various metal materials for your projects!

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Metal 3D Printing: How does it work?

There are several 3D printing technologies on the market to create metal parts using additive manufacturing. When starting a 3D printing project using metal materials, you will have to make your choice between all of these technologies and materials depending on the project that you are working on. Each metal 3D printing material has its own mechanical properties. 

We can notice two big categories: Powder bed technologies and Laser Metal Deposition technologies. They are the most used and you can totally manufacture parts printed with these two different processes. 

The powder bed technologies uses, as their name tell us, a powder bed: the powdered metal is fused to create the parts additively. Metal deposition technologies are adding layers of materials. But let’s see more in details how these techniques are working, and how you could make the most of them. 

But first of all, we are going to explain to you the benefits of this technology, how it is actually used in various industries and why you should pay attention to this manufacturing technique and try it! This additive manufacturing technology is a great method to manufacture finished parts.

Benefits of Metal 3D Printing

Metal 3D printing has all the traditional benefits of the additive manufacturing technology, allowing: 

  • To work on complex designs

 3D printing is a great way to elaborate complex designs. By using a 3D modeling software, you will be able to design any kind of projects. When designing your project for metal printing, you will have to pay attention to the design guidelines of the material you choose, in order to create a printable and viable part. 

  • Mass-customization 

Additive manufacturing is the best solution if you need to manufacture custom-made objects. Indeed, this method will be quite cost-efficient for these projects, as you just have to modify your 3D design and print it using, for example, a 3D printing service such as Sculpteo. 

  • To reduce the assembly time

Using 3D printing allows to reduce the assembly time. By using this technology, some objects and devices can totally be manufactured in only one part. 

  • 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. 

  • Short runs at a lower cost 

Additive manufacturing is a really convenient and cost effective technique to manufacture short runs. Indeed, it can totally be a cost efficient method for your project, depending on the technology, on the 3D printing material Have you ever thought about applying these 3D printing benefits to your metal projects? You should certainly think about it.

Applications of Metal 3D Printing

Metal 3D printing is useful as it is allowing to create devices and parts that we couldn’t manufacture with a 3D printed plastic material. Parts manufactured with metal materials can be really resistant and can be used as finished parts in sectors such as automotive, aerospace or aeronautics :sectors requiring parts with specific mechanical properties. 

 This printing technique can be used to manufacture objects for various different projects. We are noticing that the use of metal 3D printing is actually growing year over year in sectors such as aeronautics and aerospace, which need to stay innovative. This manufacturing process allows to create high-performing mechanical parts, it is a perfect solution to work on metal engineering. 3D printed metal parts can totally be used for automotive or medical applications, it can be a great methods for you to create 3D printed tools. 

But metal 3D printing is not only used for functional applications, it is also well-used for jewelry! Indeed, as we just saw, one of the most interesting benefits of 3D printing is mass-customization. This technology is actually allowing to create custom-made products really easily. 

 You want to make the most of this technology and get all these benefits for your business? Now let’s see the various metal technologies available on the market.

Powder bed technologies

Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

Selective Laser Melting is a 3D printing technology developed to print metal alloys. A laser beam comes sintering the material, layer by layer, according to the shape of your 3D model. Unlike technologies such as Direct Metal Laser Sintering, the powder is fully melt during the printing process, thanks to an inert gas such as argon or nitrogen. Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is a good printing technology for pure materials such as aluminum

While printing with this 3D technology, you need to use supports in order to reinforce small angles and hangovers, and get a part perfectly 3D printed. These supports have to be manually removed after the cooling process of the parts. This technology has a longer cooling time than the Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology, as Selective Laser Melting (SLM) needs a higher temperature to fully melt the material.

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This technique has many advantages. First, it is allowing to create really detailed parts, and it also enables to integrate multiple components. There is also this possibility to create thin-walled objects. Be careful, you always have to respect the design guidelines of the materials that you are using, if your walls are too thin, your file will be non-printable, or your part could break. This technology is great to manufacture resistant industrial metal parts, such as propellers or gears. 

 A few examples of 3D printers using the Selective Laser Melting technology:

  • The SLM 500, which has a large build envelope of 500 x 280 x 365 mm and uses a unique multi-beam technology 
  •  The SLM 280, also using the multi-beam technology for higher efficiency. This printer has a build envelope of 280 x 280 x 365 mm 
  • The SLM 125, the most compact of their SLM machines, with a build envelope of 125 x 125 x 125 mm


If you use our metal 3D printing service, you can get 3D printed parts in Aluminum AISi7Mg0,6.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) almost works like Selective Laser Melting (SLM). It sinters the metal powder according to the shape of your 3D model. The difference is that Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) doesn’t fully melt the powder like an SLM printer does. The consequence of that is that metal prints made with the DMLS 3D printing technology don’t need to reach a temperature as high and therefore the cooling time is shorter. 

Benefits of DMLS and SLM technologies are quite similar: It is a great solution to print multiple components into only one object, to create thin walled objects and intricate designs. The parts created with this technology are highly resistant, ideal for mechanical parts for automotive or aerospace, for example.

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There are various metal 3D printers, in our 3D printing factory, we use these 3D machines for Direct Metal Laser Sintering: 

  • The EOS M280, which enables the additive manufacturing of metal products directly from CAD data. 
  • The EOS M290, the number one 3D printer for high-quality 3D printed metal parts.


Regarding the 3D printing materials, we can offer your to print with Stainless Steel 316L or Titanium 6Al-4V.

Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

In this metal 3D printing process, the metal powder is placed under a vacuum and fused thanks to the heating of one or several electron beams. This additive manufacturing technique is melting the metal powder layer by layer according to the shape of your 3D model. The reason why this process has to be done under a vacuum environment is to prevent oxidation of the material. 

This process operates at high temperatures, up to 1100°C. The temperature during the process is well-distributed, it provides good strength properties for the 3D printed parts. The biggest advantage of this printing technology is the rapidity of the printing process. But this technique also has some defects: for example, the precision is a bit lower than technologies such as DMLS and SLM. It appears to be a really good prototyping technique if you need to use metal materials for this process. 

Materials available on the market with this technology: Titanium and Cobalt’s alloys. 

 Examples of 3D printers used for the Electron Beam Melting technology: 

  • Arcam A2x, offers a build envelope of 200x200x380 mm
  • Arcam Q20, which has the biggest build envelope for this Electron Beam Melting technology, of 350×380 mm

Laser Metal Deposition technologies

Directed Energy Deposition (DED)

This metal 3D printing technology, working by addition of layer, a little bit like the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process. Indeed, the feedstock is brought and fused at the same time through a nozzle. They are many different terms that are referring to this same technique, like Laser Cladding, Direct Metal Deposition or Laser Engineered Net Shaping. 

The principle of the printing process is still the same. For this additive manufacturing technology, a powdered metal material is melted and then consolidated using a laser.

The process is including a deposition of the metal material, layer by layer. It has a great accuracy and a high resolution for micro-structures. The substrate can be positioned either in a stationary position (3−axis systems) or on a rotating stage (5+ axis systems) to increase the ability of the machine to process more complex geometries. 

What we call Laser Cladding is more about adding layers of material on an existing object, but the process is still the same. It is a great solution to improve the corrosion resistance of metal parts. Indeed, used as coating, this technique allows to get parts with really good mechanical properties. But is also great to repair worn out parts.  This metal 3D printing technique can be used to repair parts, even really big parts, but also to build them completely. 

Materials such as steel and aluminum can be printed using this manufacturing technique.

Other types of metal 3D printing technologies

Binder Jetting

Binder Jetting is an additive manufacturing technique that creates parts additively with a binding agent. The process uses a liquid binding agent deposited on the metal powder material thanks to an inkjet head. This metal 3D printing method uses a layer-by-layer technique and creates the shape of the object according to your CAD file. 

 After this printing process, a consolidation process is required to add the complete mechanical properties of the material, and to avoid porosity. This step is achieved in a hot isostatic pressing. The device will cure the object uniformly with heat and pressure. During the heating, the binding agent melts to let the powder form an homogeneous structure This technology is great to make jewelry, ornamental and decorative objects, thanks to its plating option, allowing to get an impressive result. 

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As it can create complex shapes and geometries quite easily, Binder Jetting appears to be one of the best metal 3D printing processes to create jewelry.

The cost of binder jetting project is lower than a traditional metal manufacturing technique, and it is also quite fast. One of the best 3D printers used for the Binder Jetting process is: the M-Flex printer, which has a maximum building size of 736.6 X 381 X 361.95 mm using a raw steel 420 BR.

 Binder Jetting materials that we are producing in our 3D printing factory are: 

Casting

Lost-wax casting is an alternative to additive and subtractive manufacturing to create multiple models from a first master model that will be used as a reference. The master model is first 3D printed in wax. Then a mould made in plaster is poured over this wax model, and once this plaster mould is ready, liquid metal is injected to replace the wax and create the finished product. 

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It is a very precise process, perfect to manufacture jewelry and ornamental parts. It won’t be the perfect manufacturing technique to use if you need to create technical parts.


3D printing materials for the Casting process that we provide at Sculpteo: 

Are you looking for a great metal 3D printing service?

Using a metal 3D printing service such as Sculpteo can totally help you to manufacture prototypes or finished products, that you won’t be able to create using a desktop metal 3D printer. Do you need bigger parts or devices perfectly printed using professional 3D printers? You can totally contact us or use our service directly! 

 There are more and more metal materials available on the market as this technology is becoming really useful for many industries. Sculpteo is offering various 3D printing technologies, and metal is one of them. Once your 3D model is uploaded on our online 3D printing service, you can choose the right metal material for your project.

From bronze to titanium, you can choose among our 3D printing metal materials. When choosing a metal material for your project, you will have the choice among a wide range of different 3D printing materials. You will have to see which material will match your expectations and totally fit the needs of your projects. Indeed, each metal technology and material has its own properties, but there is necessarily one metal printing technology out there, totally fitting your need! 

We hope that this page helped you to understand what it metal 3D printing and what are the advantages and various applications of this technology. Are you ready to try a metal 3D printing service to manufacture your metal parts?










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