Metal 3D printing, also known as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) and Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) is an additive layer technology. During metal 3D printing, a metal 3D printer utilizes a laser beam to melt 20-60 micron layers of metal powder on top of each other. Powdered metal is spread across the entire build platform and selectively melted to previous layers. This additive process allows metal parts to be grown out of a bed of powdered metal. The process is like other polymer-based Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printers that use powder bed fusion.
Parts created are fully dense metal with excellent mechanical properties. Other metal 3D printing processes exist which use a binder, although they produce parts which are not fully dense metal. The process can produce complex geometries that traditional CNC machining processes simply cannot. Examples of metal 3D parts include molds and inserts, duct work and rapid tooling.
Metal 3D printing materials include stainless steel, cobalt chrome, maraging steel, aluminum, nickel alloy and titanium. These materials are all discussed in detail below.
Metal 3D printing is capable of producing durable parts from metal powders. These parts can be complex, intricate and elaborate all while maintaining their strength.
|Stainless Steel (PH1)||15-5 PH, DIN 1.4540 & UNS S15500||20 or 40 Micron Layers||30-35 HRC Built, Post Hardened to 40 HRC||High Hardness & Strength||Prototype / Production Parts|
|Stainless Steel (GP1)||17-4, European 1.4542, German X5CrNiCuNb16-4||20 or 40 Micron Layers||230 ± 20 HV1 Built, Ground & Polished to 250-400 HV1||High Toughness & Ductility||Engineering Applications|
|Cobalt Chrome (MP1)||ISO 5832-4 & ASTM F75||20, 40 or 50 Micron Layers||35-45 HRC Built||High Temperature Resistance||Turbines & Engine Parts|
|Maraging Steel (MS1)||18% Ni Maraging 300, European 1.2709, German X3NiCoMoTi 18-9-5||20 or 40 Micron Layers||33-37 HRC Built, Post Hardened to 50-56 HRC||Easily Machinable & Excellent Polishability||Injection Molding Tooling, Conformal Cooling|
|Aluminum AlSi10Mg||Typical Casting Alloy||30 Micron Layers||Approx 119 ± 5 HBW||Low Weight, Good Thermal Properties||Automotive, Racing|
|Nickel Alloy IN718||UNS N07718, AMS 5662, AMS 5664, W.Nr 2.4668, DIN NiCr19Fe19NbMo3||40 Micron Layers||30 HRC Built, Post Hardened 47 HRC||Heat & Corrosion Resistant||Turbines, Rockets, Aerospace|
|Stainless Steel (316L)||ASTM F138||20 Micron Layers||85 HRB||Corrosion & Pitting Resistant||Surgical Tools, Food & Chemical Plants|
|Titanium Ti-64*||ASTM F2924||30 or 60 Micron Layers||320 ± 15 HV5||Light Weight, High Strength & Corrosion Resistant||Aerospace, Motorsport Racing|
|Titanium Ti-64 ELI*||ASTM F136 Properties||30 or 60 Micron Layers||320 ± 15 HV5||Corrosion Resistance, Biocompatibility||Medical, Biomedical, Implants|
*Contact a Fathom expert for more information.
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AlSi10Mg is a typical casting alloy with good casting properties. This material is used for cast parts with thin walls and complex geometry. The alloying elements silicon and magnesium lead to high strength and hardness. The alloy also features good dynamic properties and is therefore used for parts subject to high loads. Parts in Aluminum AlSi10Mg are ideal for applications which require a combination of good thermal properties and low weight.
Cobalt Chrome MP1 produces parts in a cobalt-chrome-molybdenum-based superalloy. This class of superalloy is characterized by having excellent mechanical properties like strength and hardness, corrosion resistance and temperature resistance. Such alloys are commonly used in biomedical applications such as dental and medical implants as well as for high-temperature applications such as in aerospace engines.
Maraging Steel MS1 is a martensite-hardenable steel. Its chemical composition corresponds to US classification 18% Ni Maraging 300, European 1.2709 and German X3NiCoMoTi 18-9-5. This kind of steel is characterized by having excellent strength combined with high toughness. The parts are easily machinable with CNC finishing processes after the building process, and can be easily post-hardened to more than 50 HRC. They also have excellent polishability. MargingSteel applications include tooling and high performance parts.
Stainless Steel GP1 is a stainless steel. Its chemical composition corresponds to US classification 17-4, European 1.4542 and German X5CrNiCuNb16-4. This kind of steel is characterized by having good mechanical properties, especially excellent ductility in laser processed state and is widely used in a variety of engineering applications. This material is ideal for many part-building applications such as functional metal prototypes, small series products, individualized products or spare parts.
Stainless Steel PH1 is a stainless steel. The chemical composition conforms to the compositions of 15-5 PH, DIN 1.4540 and UNS S15500. This kind of steel is characterized by having excellent mechanical properties, especially in the precipitation hardened state. This type of steel is widely used in a variety of medical, aerospace and other engineering applications requiring high hardness and strength. This material is ideal for many part-building applications such as functional metal prototypes, small series products, individualized products or spare parts.
Titanium Ti64 is a Ti6Al4V alloy. This common light alloy is characterized by having excellent mechanical properties and corrosion resistance combined with low specific weight and biocompatibility. The ELI version (extra-low interstitials) has particularly high purity. Titanium is good for aerospace and engineering applications as well as biomedical implants.
Selecting the best material for each metal 3D printing method is important. At Fathom, our team can help you select the most appropriate material for your project. Not sure what you need? Talk to a Fathom expert today!
While there are several categories of metal 3D printing, the basic fabrication methods all involve producing a part by adding material one layer at a time. First, the build chamber is filled with argon or another inert gas. The gas is used to minimize the oxidization of the metal material. The powder material is placed over the build platform. A laser then scans a cross-section of the component and fuses the granules together to solidify the layer. The build platform moves down one layer and then another layer of metal powder is added. The laser scans again to create an additional layer. The process repeats itself until the part is made. Support structures made of the same material are used to attach the part to the build platform. Excess powder is removed from the part and the part is heat-treated. The part is detached from the build platform using cutting, wire-EDM or machining.
Metal 3D printing methods include //
Once a part has been built using one of the above metal 3D printing processes, the part moves on to post-processing. Post-processing may include a number of techniques. These steps include removing any loose powder, removing support structures and thermal annealing. The surface quality may also be improved by media blasting, metal plating, micro-machining or polishing. Holes or threads may be created using CNC machining.
Distinguishing between each metal 3D printing process can be confusing as some of the processes are very similar. Some of the most common questions surrounding metal 3D printing terminology include //
What is the difference between DMLS and SLM? Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) and Selective Laser Melting (SLM) both use a laser to scan and fuse or melt metal powder particles in order to bond them together and create a part in layers. Both processes use metal in granular form and both methods are a type of powder bed fusion 3D printing. The primary difference between the two is in the particle bonding process. While DMLS uses metal alloy material with variable melting points that bond at high heat, SLM uses metal powders with a single melting temperature. Both SLM and DMLS are suitable for industrial use and engineering projects.
What is the Difference Between DMLM and DMLS? Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) and Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) are both additive manufacturing processes that use lasers to melt metal powdered material to fuse particles together. In the DMLS process, the metal is only partially melted. In the DMLM process, the material is fully melted into a liquid, which then solidifies when cooled. DMLS is a term that may be used to describe either process.
Whether your project utilizes DMLS technology or another metal 3D printing process, you can expect a high-quality part that is comparable to a metal part made using traditional manufacturing methods. The ability to produce strong, complex and durable parts is just a few of the advantages of metal 3D printing. There are other benefits that have driven the demand for metal 3D printing. Talk through your options with a Fathom metal 3D printing expert today.
There are several finishes and finishing processes that can be performed for metal 3d printing. Here are a few options:
Abrasive blasting removes imperfections, rust, or other contaminants from the surface of a part. It is often used in preparation for a coating application. Abrasive blasting methods include micro-abrasive blasting, bristle blasting, bead blasting, and more.
Shot peening is used to add strength and reduce the stress profile of a part. During the shot peening process, the surface of the part is hit with multiple shots which cause deformation on the part’s surface. After shot peening, the part has a compressive stressed layer.
Optical polishing is used to create a microfinish or superfinish on a surface for further processing. It is best used on projects with geometries in low quantities that are not tolerance dependent.
Electrochemical polishing produces a mirror-like finish on metal surfaces and is sometimes used to prepare a metal part for additional finishing. During electrochemical polishing, the part is placed into an electrolytic solution alongside a cathode of copper or lead. An electric current moves through the solution, smoothing the part’s surface.
Abrasive flow machining is used for deburring and to polish parts. Abrasive flow machining uses chemically inactive media. The abrasive works to polish the part and remove any unwanted material.
Electroplating adds a metal layer to the outside of a part, increasing its strength and durability. Electroplating dissolves metal in an electrolytic solution and transfers it onto the surface of the part.
The micro machining process is used to produce a mirror-like finish with great technical precision while preserving the geometries of the part. During MMP, the part is first mapped using a profilometer to create a roughness profile. The part is then moved to an MMP envelope where micro-milling cutters begin to polish the part.
When planning your metal 3D printing project, it is important to keep the following benefits in mind. Metal 3D printed objects have excellent physical properties. They can be made by a wide range of materials that are difficult to process using traditional manufacturing methods, such as metal superalloys. A metal 3D printed product performs well, is lighter in weight and requires fewer assembly components. Using the metal 3D printing method allows companies to produce parts with complex geometries unachievable using traditional manufacturing methods. A growing number of industries have been using the advantages of metal 3D printing to innovate and use this technology for a number of applications.
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Metal 3D printing is a popular manufacturing method because it can reduce the part’s weight while adding durability and strength. These features have proven advantageous for aerospace, healthcare, research and development, automotive and more. DMLS may be used for numerous applications, including //
Metal 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s. This technology continues to advance with many large corporations aiding in development and commercialization. The following timeline is a summary of the history of metal 3D printing //
Read through these other metal 3D printing resources, references and articles //
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