No wonder you have been looking for a 3D printer for creating metal parts. With so many benefits of having the best metal 3D printer, users cannot resist the idea to own one.
Buying a commercial metal 3D printer engages a lot of hard work and effort. These machines are expensive and once you spend money on the option you don’t like, you are pretty much stuck with it.
So, why to make things difficult for you? If you really wish to enjoy the perks of owning a 3D printer, you must do the groundwork beforehand.
As you must be knowing that metal 3D printing has become very popular among users. This is because of the many advantages it has over traditional manufacturing.
The parts printed are way better than the ones produced by conventional methods. These parts not only exhibit amazing qualities but also save a lot of materials which is wasted and cut off during using the old methods.
Do you know that almost 90 percent of the material is wasted in the process which does not employ 3D printing? It does end up wasting a lot of energy and resources.
Moreover, the printed parts are lighter. Because of which 3D printing applications has been welcomed by aeronautics and automobile industries. Jewelers are also finding the alternative very alluring.
Apart from printing prototypes, these machines have evolved to produce end products. One can depend on this powerful technology for realizing complex geometries that may not be possible using any other method.
List of Metal 3D Printing Processes
There are few 3D printing processes that use metals as material for creating parts from it. As time is passing, new technologies are surfacing around the basic ones. So, let us talk about the most popular ones.back to menu ↑
Powder Bed Fusion Process
This 3D printing process is used mostly by industries and large companies. In this process, the powdered metal is fused using an energy source.
This could be a laser or any other beam of energy powerful enough to fuse atomized particles together.
At a time, one layer is fused and the next layer is later deposited on the prior one. The process goes on until the entire object is created.
There are many different brands that are manufacturing machines based on the powder bed fusion process. And, already, the users from around the world are using these machines for various applications.back to menu ↑
Binder Jetting Process
Binder jetting also used the powder bed for creating parts with metals. In this process, the metal particle layers are glued together. These are then sintered in a high-temperature kiln. This is very similar to the process involved with ceramics. This process is very expensive too.
However, companies are using another approach to manufacture affordable metal 3D printers based on binder jetting. This is done by mixing the metal powder together with the metal paste.
This mixture is then extruded using a pneumatic extrusion 3D printer to create the desired 3D object. Later, the 3D part is sintered in a kiln to complete the process.back to menu ↑
Directed Energy Deposition Process
This process is very similar to the FDM process that we use for filaments. However, it may sound impossible to apply such a process for metals, industrial metal manufacturers are doing it very well. To accomplish this, experts utilize two different methods.
Directed energy deposition (DED) is one of the methods. It is also known as laser metal deposition (LMD). In this method, a laser beam is used to fuse metal powder. This is then deposited after being released slowly by an industrial robotic arm to form the layers.
Another way is to use the Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) process. This is similar to the soldering process. In this method, companies use a powerful electron beam to melt fuse a 3 mm thick titanium wire.
The melted metal is then used to give shape to very large metal structures. However, this process is not very common and usually utilized by Defence departments.back to menu ↑
Metals Used in 3D Printing
While we have already learned about the process involved in 3D printing that uses metals, it is time to explore the options of materials too. So, what are the common metals that can be used with metal 3D printers?back to menu ↑
Titanium is a very common metal in 3D printing. It is used in the form of Ti64 and TiAl4V. The metal is very versatile and can produce parts that are lighter yet stronger.
It can produce parts with a highly attractive finish. The metal is used widely for applications into the medical, aerospace and automobile industries.
In the medical industry, it is used for printing personalized prosthetics while in automotive or aerospace, titanium can be used for a number of applications.
From prototypes to part manufacturing is possible by using this metal. The best part is that the metal can be crafted using powder bed jetting as well as binder jetting processes.
However, users must be cautious when working with titanium. The metal is very reactive. This is the reason why it is used as a vacuum or when surrounded by the argon gas. Not a metal to be used inside the house. So, careful when choosing the metal for your business.back to menu ↑
Inconel is called the superalloy. The metal is a combination of chrome and nickel. The metal property that makes it unique is its resistibility to high-temperature. Hence, it is used for projects related to aerospace, automobiles as well as chemical and oil.back to menu ↑
Stainless steel is used a lot within the 3D printing community. The metal is very affordable and creates strong parts. The physical properties of the metal make it highly versatile and popular at the same time.
Being used for various art and design projects alongside the industrial application, the metal is widely used. The alloy which is a combination of nickel and cobalt offers amazing elasticity to the parts while maintaining its strength intact.back to menu ↑
Aluminum is another metal that is commonly used for many applications. Because of its lightweight property, it is highly used for different 3D printing projects. The metal is also used as an alloy for obtaining varying properties and results.back to menu ↑
Copper and Bronze
These metals aren’t very cooperative when it comes to creating parts and prototypes for industrial applications.
However, these can be used for different arts and craft projects. To be precise, if you are into wax casting processes, these metals would help fit into the criteria better.back to menu ↑
This is an alloy containing Cobalt and Chromium. This alloy has a very high specific strength. Hence, Cobalt chrome is widely used for dental implants, orthopedic implants, turbines printing, and many other similar applications.
Because of its amazing strength, the metal alloy has become very popular among the 3D printing community.back to menu ↑
Precious Metals – Gold, Silver, and Platinum
Using precious metals for 3D printing is very challenging. Working with gold, silver, and platinum isn’t easy and these are mostly used with powder bed fusion processes.
The fact that these are expensive choices, one must ensure to manage the precious powders properly while keeping the aesthetic properties of the materials intact. These metals are used for applications within niches such as medical, electronics, jewelry, etc.back to menu ↑
3D Printing Service Centre or Metal 3D Printer?
Before you plan to opt for buying the best metal 3D printer, you must check your options. If you are not printing regularly and in a huge amount, it would be completely pointless to own a 3D printer that prints with metals.
These printers are very expensive. You can expect them to fall within the range of $100.000 and $500.000 and even more. Moreover, maintaining these printers isn’t a piece of cake. You will need someone to operate and maintain the machine from time to time.
If you are planning to invest that much for 3D printing two or three parts a day or a few in a week, you would be playing with your savings. Or, the loan you are going to borrow would only seem a burden for you.
Do not be disheartened yet. You do have a choice here. You can still 3D print with metals. You can opt for 3D printing service centers that offer a huge advantage to users with personalized design requirements.
Here is a list of a few of those centers.
Shapeways: The company produces parts for different applications. Either you are looking for a functional prototype or an end product printed in metal, this would be a great choice.
I.Materialise: This company mostly works with large industries who need prototypes and printed products. However, the company has an online website that serves end users through printing the designs they upload on the website.
There are other companies too. Such as 3D Hubs, Sculpteo, and many others. You can choose any of these if you think spending on a 3D printer would be too expensive and infeasible.back to menu ↑
List of Best Metal 3D Printers
Here are a few recommendations for you in case you decide to buy the best metal 3D printer for your workshop or industry.back to menu ↑
Desktop Metal Studio
This is one of the most affordable choices for those looking to invest in a metal 3D printer but does not have a mammoth budget. It is comparatively compact too.
This printer also has a furnace with it. It runs on the Microwave Enhanced Sintering process and one can produce parts in the fastest possible time. The workflow of the machine can be controlled via software.
It helps users in managing process at every stage. It is very close to the home desktop 3D printers, however, not yet available as one. But it seems that the technology would soon be accessible to the home users as well.back to menu ↑
Concept Laser XLine 1000
The machine offers a build volume of 630 x 400 x 500 mm which is large and can accommodate huge designs without trouble. Based on the powder metal 3D printing process, the printing speed is very high.
The printer is bulky and needs a large space for storage. It can print parts weighing up to 1000 kg. Isn’t that enormous? Using a 1,000-watt laser, the printer is capable of performing some of the unique tasks with great efficiency.
It is a reliable option for industries and for large scale production. The printer is designed for niches like aeronautics automotive, space, and jewelry. It can also very well serve the medical as well as dental industries.
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Sciaky EBAM 300
Based on metal filament 3D printing, the machine can be used for the toughest applications. It can work with titanium metals with ease.
Think about creating a 10-foot long titanium aircraft in two days.
That would suffice the capabilities of this powerful machine. It can print at a rate of 15 pounds of metal per hour.
The machine has a build space of 19′ x 4′ x 4′ x 8’. One can create metal parts that are 10 feet long. The printer is widely used for commercial as well as industrial use.
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Fabrisonic SonicLayer 4000
This again is a huge machine and offers a build space of 1016 × 610 × 610 mm. Based on Ultrasound Additive Manufacturing Technology (UAM) technology, the machine uses ultrasonic sounds to combine layers of metal foil.
The machine can be better described as a three-axis CNN mill with an additional welding head for providing the feature of additive manufacturing.
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The more you try to explore the depth of the technology, the more you find yourself surrounded by huge information, difficult to apprehend. The guide here would help you understand your goals and decide for the best.
If you think that owning the best metal 3D printer that could cost a fortune can lead you to someplace better, you are good to go.
However, at any point, if this does not seem like a great idea, you always have the option to go with the service centers. In both ways, you can find the solution to your 3D printing needs.