3D Printing Material: Stainless Steel 316L


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Overview

On this page, you will find ample information, tips, and advice on making your 3D 316L Stainless Steel printing a success. After reading this page, you will be familiar with:

General information about material

Our Stainless Steel 316L

Objects printed in 316L stainless steel at Sculpteo are created from fine metallic powder primarily composed of iron (66-70%), enriched with chrome (16-18%), nickel (11-14%), and molybdenum (2-3%). The material provides strong resistance against corrosion and is distinguished for its high ductility. These features make it a great candidate for implementation in several industries, such as the medical field for surgical assistance, endoscopic surgery, or orthopedics; in the aerospace industry for producing mechanical parts; in the automobile industry for corrosion-resistant parts; but also for making watches and jewelry.

316L Stainless Steel printing is very accurate because of the fine coating resolution (30-40 µm) and the laser's accuracy. Unlike polymer powder sintering, stainless steel printing through DMLS requires adding base structures in order to attach the part  to the board and to strengthen distinctive geometries like overhangs. The bases themselves are made from the same powder as the piece and will be taken off afterwards.

With no particular finishing, the material gives off a granular and coarse appearance, though suiting most applications. Smooth and shiny surfaces can be acquired after printing through finishing steps. Pieces can be machined, drilled, welded, electro-eroded, granulated, polished, and coated. 

Compared to the other 3D printing materials, stainless steel is the smoothest material.

To find out more about the mechanical properties of our stainless steel, refer to the specifications paragraph and the technical data sheet.

Benefits and Main Uses 

Stainless Steel 3D printing is produced by fusion or laser sintering. Two possible technologies exist for this material: DMLS and SLM. At Sculpteo, we use DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) technology, a laser sintering technique on a EOS M280 machine to print stainless steel. The laser beam brings the metal powder close to its fusion point layer after layer in order to produce your object.  

Since the stainless steel is melded at a very high temperature, the additive metallic production process requires vast technical mastery for initial studying of thermal and mechanical effects before 3D printing. It also requires excellent knowledge of finishing techniques for the object's completion. 

Successful additive production of stainless steel parts often constitute projects in which 3D printing is wholly justified given it is the best alternative when compared to other production methods (foundry, machining, cutting). We have noted that these benefits to 3D printing are often found in:

  • Complex design/ Wired Geometries/ Fixed Mechanisms
  • Speed, shortening assembly time
  • Topology Optimization / Reduction 
  • Small-Volume Production
  • Mass Customization
  • Remote Production

To ensure successful production of your piece, having to modify your initial design is commonplace. Even if we must be repetitive, we prefer to warn you: if you wish to create a stainless steel piece just for curiosity, you risk being disappointed when confronting the necessary effort and cost of undertaking the project! 

316L Stainless Steel is good material for printing both functional and spare parts in 3D. The material is easy to maintain because it attracts little dirt and the presence of chrome gives it the added benefit of never rusting.

316L Stainless Steel is used to offer solid pieces and essential hygienics in several industries such as the medical, aeronautical, automobile, and domestic products industries.

Agile Metal Technology

A software suite for 3D printing metal

Sculpteo is developing a new suite of custom tools to meet the challenges of 3D printing stainless steel. It is a smart, online system that allows you to evaluate, optimize, and manufacture your metal-based projects. This series of tools is combined under the name of " Agile Metal Technology." It combines artificial intelligence and interactive 3D interfaces with Sculpteo's computation engine to give you reliable answers within a few minutes.

Our aim is to offer you: 

A detailed audit of the feasibility of your project 

Specific feedback on your design and how it can be optimized;

Transparency on prices and the strategy for completing your item;

Control over the production method (orientation, platform strategy) for expert clients;

In the final analysis, you will save time and achieve greater success with your metal 3D printing project.  You can find more details on these tools and how you can make use of them for your stainless steel 3D printing on the dedicated page.

Business Case

Business Case is the first tool in the Agile Metal Technology suite. It provides an online audit of your 3D printing project. Case is an artificial intelligence developed by Sculpteo, which carries out a feasibility study using your 3D file and a series of questions. Our AI uses machine learning, derived from the millions of 3D files and manufactured items that we have processed since Sculpteo was founded in 2009.  

This audit only takes a few minutes and gives you an indication of your project's strengths and weaknesses. Business Case also provides a recommendation on the material that it considers to be most suitable. 

Business Case learns automatically, so don't hesitate to try it out: the more projects that it reviews, the better its recommendations will be.

3D printing techniques - Processes

Pre-process

Unlike polymer 3D printing technologies, metal additive manufacturing requires an extensive pre-process phase. This is related to the significant thermal phenomena during manufacture, as well as the need to take into consideration dimensional constraints and the degree of finishing required.

DMLS printing requires supports in order to print a part correctly. The support itself is printed from the same powder as the part and will be removed after the printing phase. The supports can:

  • Properly attach your object to the platform 
  • Limit the effects of shrinking during the cooling phase (warping)  
  • Support closed angles and cantilevered geometries.  

Multiple support types are possible and are used depending on the geometry of your part, its dimensions, the density of the final object, the post-process finishing steps...  

The model orientation and choice of supports are essential for the success of your stainless steel project. As with Sculpteo's other 3D printing technologies, these steps are semi-automated: our intelligent system suggests a solution which is then validated by a specialized pre-process engineer.

Printing technique and online prices

DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) printing technology works additively by using a laser to fuse the stainless steel powder. With SLS technology your piece is created layer by layer according to your 3D model. It goes through several stages before becoming a physical object, they are: 

  • Transfer of your file to the 3D printer   

You create your 3D file on software dedicated to 3D modeling and then upload your model and place an order on our site. We recommend you to upload a native CAD file (STEP, CATIA, igs...) rather than an STL or OBJ file. Your 3D model is then forwarded to one of our 3D metal printers. For stainless steel it is an EOS M280 or M290. 

  • Printing of the 3D object   

DMLS technology uses a powerful laser to melt successive thin layers of powder. After each pass of the laser, the powder container is lowered and a new thin layer of powder is deposited on the previous one to be melted again. The process is repeated until the object is completed.

  • Removal of supports  

After the object is printed, it is detached from the printing platform by spark erosion and the supports are removed manually.

  • Cleaning and sandblasting 

A light sanding is done on the piece to remove the principal traces of the support. Your object is ready to be shipped.

Online prices and delivery

3D metal printing techniques are more complex than the additive manufacturing method for plastics or resins. Although not a precious metal, stainless steel powder is an expensive material and the cooling time of materials raised to their melting point means that the machinery cannot be used as frequently as in the SLS process. We take these factors into account in calculating the price. 

Multiple objects and clusters

It is not possible to print a 3D file containing several objects, that’s why we cannot accept files that contain clusters of multiple objects. However, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’ll pay more for your multiple objects: to reduce the metal 3D printing cost, we set up a different price calculation as soon as you order two or more objects in metal. 

You can also use our online tools and see our tricks and tips on how to reduce your 3D printing price.


To get more information on your metal additive manufacturing service, you can contact our qualified sales team

Quotes and studies on request for more complex projects

Our sales team and dedicated technical team are available to study and quantify your metal additive manufacturing projects. Together we have the modeling and engineering skills for the process and finishes to be able to work with you to create a 3D model perfectly suited to your specification. We also validate with you with the economic advantage and the choice of technology compared to conventional production.

We establish the most appropriate finishing strategy for your specifications by using a wide range of machining operations:

  • polishing 
  • grinding  
  • turning 
  • milling 
  • drilling 
  • threading 
  • heat treatment  

To achieve your goals, for example, dimensional or surface quality goals. 

We can also print in  other metals and alloys.  

By combining the efficiency of our 3D tools, the intelligent Agile Metal Technology system developed by us and the skills of our engineers, we are able to offer efficient stainless steel additive manufacturing at the best price. 


Contact our technical sales department at: sales[at]sculpteo.com

Design Guidelines

Printing Resolution

Layer Thickness 40 µm

Size Limitations

Maximum Size  220 mm x 220 mm x 250 mm 

The maximum dimensions of your models are limited by the physical size of our 3D printers - nothing can be printed larger than the printer bed.

Your object must also respect the minimum dimensions of Stainless Steel 3D prints (explained bellow).


Minimum Thickness & Geometry

Minimum wall thickness

2 mm

 Minimum thickness for particlar design aspects

 1 mm


Wall Thickness 2mm.png

The walls of your design must adhere to a minimum thickness of 2 mm in order to guarantee the structure will not break. If the walls of your model are less than 2 mm, we recommand you to thicken them or add a support structure to maintain stability.

To ensure the solidity of an object, a minimum thickness of 2 mm is recommended.

It is also important to keep in mind that the object is to be printed in a physical form. Thus if a thin aspect is supporting something that is too heavy for it, it may break - even though it is possible with the physics provided within the 3D printing program. We recommend adding a bit of thickness to the places that will get a lot of handling, or that support the most weight.

Do not forget

Keep in mind to avoid physical aberrations such as floating parts, unstable position, part supporting too much weight relative to its thickness, etc. Particularly care must be given to the geometry of your design and the most stressed parts must be thicken.



Etching/Embossing Depths

Minimum size of details 1 mm
Minimum height and width details 1 mm
Minimum height and width for a readable text 1 mm
Enlargement ratio 1 mm


alumide details

A detail’s minimum precision is mainly determined by the resolution of our printers. However, during the cleaning process, a fine layer of detail can also be lost. In order for a detail or a text to be visible, we highly suggest you follow our recommended sizes at the very least. To ensure a better powder removal (thus a better detail precision), the width of your details must be at least as big as depth.


Enclosed and Interlocking Volumes

Enclosed parts ? Yes if supports are accessible
Interlocking parts ? Yes, but it depends of the interlocking part's orientation, compared to the Z axis

PA details


Minimum Spacing and Clearances

Minimum spacing between fixed walls 0.2 mm
Minimum clearance between parts 0.2 mm

PA_clearance-2mm.png

For a successful 3D print a minimum clearance between objects is required to allow excess material to be sand blown out. If this space is not left within the design, the object will be a solid. This is particularly important for articulated objects - as the space left between the walls will define the object’s ability to move.

Clearance should be at least 0.2 mm and depends on your objects size. For big sizes, the clearance should be greater. This is due to the DMLS printing process. Our printer beds are heated during the process, and larger objects are heated for longer periods. A small space between objects creates the risk of melting them together as they remain under heat for a long period of time. In some other cases, holes should be added to allow us to drain for the excess powder material within the clearance. 

Do not forget

Clearance should be at least 0.2 mm, however that is the minumum for small objects. Larger objects require more space between their parts. 

Piece Assembly Restrictions

Assembly? Yes
Minimum space 0.4 mm

PA-assembly-0.4mm.png

Objects printed in Stainless Steel can be printed to be assembled. As long as a width of at least 0.4 mm is left between the different parts of the object.

Hollowing

Hollowing ?

No


Multishell Files

Files with multiple objects ?

No


silver multishell

This is not possible to 3D print a 3D file containing several objects with Stainless Steel.

Multiple objects and clusters

It is not possible to print a 3D file containing several objects, that's why we cannot accept files that contain clusters of multiple objects. Though, if you wish to purchase more than one identical parts, you can select the number of parts you want to order during the checkout. The more parts you order, the lower your price per part gets.

You can also use our online tools and see our tricks and tips on how to reduce your 3D printing price.


To get more information on your metal additive manufacturing service, you can contact our qualified sales team.

Grappe Material no.jpg

Technical Specifications

Ingredients:

  • Iron : 66 - 70%

  • Chrome : 16 -18%

  • Nickel : 11 - 14%

  • Molybdenum : 2 - 3%


Mechanical Properties Conditions Unit Value

Density of laser-sintered part

EOS-Method

g/cm3

7,9

Tensile strength(XY)

ISO 6892 / ASTM E8M

MPa

640 ± 50

Tensile strength(Z)

ISO 6892 / ASTM E8M 

MPa

540 ± 55

Yield strength(XY) 

ISO 6892 / ASTM E8M 

 MPa

530 ± 60

Yield strength(Z) 

ISO 6892 / ASTM E8M 

 MPa

470 ± 90

 Young's modulus(XY)

ISO 6892 / ASTM E8M 

 GPa

185 

Young's modulus(Z) 

ISO 6892 / ASTM E8M 

GPa 

180 

Elongation at break (XY)

ISO 6892 / ASTM E8M

%

40 ± 15 

Elongation at break (Z)

ISO 6892 / ASTM E8M

50 ± 20

Melting point

N/A

°C

1400

Reference Temparature 

 N/A

°F 

-


To learn more about Stainless Steel technical specifications, refer to the Stainless Steel Datasheet.




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