Metal 3D printing has the advantage of manufacturing complex metal parts quickly and used for prototyping and manufacturing low production volume metal parts. In this article we will discuss various metal 3D printing technologies and the best metal 3D printer available in the market. Click this link!! for more information on various types of 3D printing technologies.
3D printing of metal parts is done for quick prototyping, manufacturing parts with complex features and undercuts. Following are the application examples of metal 3D printing.
- Tooling inserts with cooling channels.
- Heat sinks.
- Lightweight metal parts for aerospace.
- Injection molding tool core and cavity.
- Small Production volume parts where high tooling cost is a concern.
Metal 3D Printing Materials
All metals that are used for conventional machining can not be 3D printed because of the limitations in metal 3D printing technologies. Following materials are widely used to 3D Print metal parts:
- Aluminum (AlSi10Mg)
- Stainless steel (SS316L)
- Titanium (Ti6Al4V)
- Inconel (IN718)
- Chrome / Cobalt
Various types of metal 3D Printers
Most metal 3D Printing technologies utilize powdered metal to manufacture metal parts. These technologies are different in the way they heat and fuses powdered metal.
Following types of metal 3D printing technologies are widely used in the market. Each of these technologies has their own advantages, limitations and applications.
- Metal Powder Bed Fusion
- Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
- Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
- Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
- Direct Energy Deposition
- Powder DED
- Wire DED
- Binder Jetting
- Metal Extrusion
1. Metal Powder Bed Fusion
Selective Laser Melting, Electron Beam Melting and Direct Metal Laser Sintering are the type of metal Powder Bed Fusion metal 3D technologies. These technologies utilize an electron beam or laser to fuse and bond powdered metal particles to create a solid metal part.
Advantages of Metal Powder Bed Fusion
Metal bed fusion technology has the following advantages.
- Highly precise.
- Complex geometries can be manufactured.
- Variety of materials can be used.
- 3D printed parts are similar to parts manufactured using traditional manufacturing operations.
Disadvantages of Metal Powder Bed Fusion
Metal bed fusion technology has the following disadvantages.
- High initial investment.
- High material cost.
- Manual post processing operations are required.
- Relatively small build volumes.
2. Direct Energy Deposition
Direct Energy Deposition (DED) metal 3D printing process utilizes plasma arc, laser or electron beam to create solid geometries from feed wire or metal powder. Compared to the powder bed fusion process, in DED material (powder or wire) blows out of a print head onto the part and an energy source (laser or electron beam) from the print head is used to melt and fuse material.
This process is very similar to welding. Therefore it is widely used for repairing and to add more features to existing metal parts.
Advantages of Direct Energy Deposition Metal 3D Printing
Direct energy deposition metal 3d printing technology has the following advantages.
- Large build volume.
- Wire DED is very affordable metal 3D Printing.
- Support material is not required.
- Widely used to repair existing damaged parts.
Disadvantages of Direct Energy Deposition Metal 3D Printing
Direct energy deposition metal 3d printing technology has the following limitations.
- Poor surface finish.
- High initial investment.
- Precise and small details are difficult to manufacture.
3. Binder Jetting
Binder jetting is a type of metal 3D printing process where a binder is deposited onto the powder bed to bond powder material to form solid layer by layer. Full color sandstone, silica sand, stainless steel and Inconel alloy, tungsten alloy are used as binder jetting materials. This additive manufacturing process is used to manufacture metal prototypes, sand casting cores and molds.
Advantages of Binder Jetting
Binder jetting metal 3d printing technology has the following advantages.
- Low Cost.
- Supports are not required.
- Larger Build Volume because warpage is not an issue.
- Complex metal geometries can be manufactured.
- Fast Printing.
Disadvantages of Binder Jetting
Binder jetting metal 3d printing technology has the following limitations.
- Limited material options.
- High initial investment.
- Post 3D printing operations such as de-binding and furnace sintering are required.
4. Metal Extrusion
Similar to FDM, Metal Extrusion process utilizes a filament rod consisting of polymer and metal powder that is extruded through a nozzle layer by layer. After extrusion, post processing operations such as removal of binder and sintering is used to create fully solid metal parts.
Metal extrusion 3D printing process can be used for 3D printing quick functional metal prototypes, creating jigs and fixtures etc. This process is introduced to make metal 3D printing affordable similar to FDM 3D printing for plastic parts.
Advantages of Metal Extrusion Process
- Very Low Cost
- Low investment
- Functional Prototypes
Disadvantages of Metal Extrusion Process
- Rough surface finish.
- Complex debinding and sintering process.
- Limitations on type of geometries that can be manufactured.
Metal 3D Printer available Options
A very limited number of metal 3D printer options are available in the market because it is relatively new technology and cost is also very high. Following is the list of metal 3D printers available in the market.
|Printer||Technology||Build Volume (Cubic mm)||Manufacturer|
|DMP Factory 500 Solution||Metal Powder|
|DMP Flex 350||275x275x420|
|DMP Factory 350||275x275x420|
|DMP Flex 100||100x100x90|
|ProX DMP 300||250x250x330|
|ProX DMP 200||140x140x115|
|Studio System||Bound Metal Deposition||300x200x200||Desktop Metal|
|Shop System||Binder Jetting Solution||350x220x200|
|Production System||Single Pass Jetting||P-1 : 200x100x40|
|Metal X System||Material Extrusion||300x220x180||Markforged|
|EBAM System||Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing||7112x219x1219||Sciaky EBAM|
We will keep updating more information on metal 3D printers. Please add your suggestions, comments or questions on metal 3D printer in the comment box.