Metal 3D Printing

Create complex and intricate geometries in a short amount of time with 3D metal printing technology like direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

Metal 3D Printing Technology

Also known as direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) or direct metal deposition, 3D metal printing is a printing/additive manufacturing technology that produces 3D printed metal parts and prototypes. 3D metal printing technology prints metal parts by sintering various metal and alloy particles together. Metal 3D printing can build metal parts in materials ranging from aluminum, cobalt chrome, steel, nickel alloy, and titanium.

3D printed metal part

Using direct metal 3D printing, you can create complex and intricate geometries in a short amount of time when compared to traditional machining processes. 3D metal printing technology produces parts with high accuracy and detail resolution, good surface quality, and excellent mechanical properties.

Because 3D printed metal parts can often be made of the same metals as production components, including steel, aluminum, and titanium, these parts can be tested rigorously or used in final end use parts for one off production, parts replacement or low volume production.

Benefits

  • Wide range of materials
  • Complex Geometries
  • Reduced time to market
  • Similar material properties
  • Medical & Aerospace
  • Consistent per cost price

Best Uses

  • Prototypes
  • Material testing
  • Replacement parts
  • Low volume production parts
  • Injection mold inserts
  • Conformal cooling

Metal 3D Printing Process

Currently there are several different processes to create 3D metal parts. Here are some of the most popular methods:

  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS): Also known as Selective Laser Melting (SLM), is a powder process where a laser is used to melt a powder in a heat chamber layer over layer until the 3D metal part is fully created. This technology is the most widely used process for prototypes and for production parts for automotive, aerospace and medical industries.
    • Advantages: Highly precise, complex geometries, wide range of metal materials, good/sometimes better mechanical properties than forged metals, can be machined/coated/treated like other metal parts.
  • Electron Beam Melting (EBM): This is a similar powder process, but it uses an electron beam instead to melt the powder. Heated chamber is no longer required, but vacuum and completely sealed space is. EBM technology is the common with production parts for aerospace, industrial, and medical.
    • Advantages: Faster than DMLS, precise, complex geometries, wide range of metal materials, good/sometimes better mechanical properties than forged metals, can be machined/coated/treated like other metal parts.
  • Metal Binder Jetting: This process uses an industrial printhead to selectively deposit liquid bindings agents to join powder particles layer by layer until completion. Parts must go through long debinding and sintering in post processing. Parts tend to have more porosity with mechanical properties less than standard metal parts. There are less metals available, but other materials are available like ceramic. This is widely used for industrial products.
    • Advantages: Large build volume, runs multiple parts at the same time, no supports, fast printing, low warpage with no heat during build, lower cost
  • Direct Energy Deposition: Also known as Direct Metal Deposition (DMD), is a process using metal or powder melted with plasma arc, laser or EBM to create the metal part. Machining and finishing are usually necessary due to the poor surface quality after printing. Small details are difficult to achieve. This is a great process for repairs or joining components (like a welder) for aerospace and industrial companies.
    • Advantages: High density, good mechanical properties, efficient material usage, large build volume, work with different materials at same time, multiple axis allow for overhangs without support
  • Metal 3D Filament Printing: This is the process of using metal filament or small rods of metal that are extruded and printed layer by layer. These parts must then be cured in an oven. Parts do tend to have porosity due to 3D printing process and parts are not as accurate as other technologies. This is a great option for quick metal prototype parts or fixtures.
    • Advantages: Materials similar to Metal Injection Molding (MIM), quick prototypes and fixtures, can run in an office setting, not as expensive as other technologies

Unlike some facilities that merely run parts as they are sent to them, we have the expertise to work with you to make sure that the part is right for the technology, material and custom finish is selected. Our team will also work with you to make sure your part is designed properly and orientated correctly so that the highest accuracy and detail resolution is possible. Sometimes 3D metal printing is not the best process, so we offer CNC machining for prototyping and production as well as metal castings.


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Metal 3D Printing Materials

There are many materials available, here are the most common materials:

  • Aluminum AlSi10Mg
  • Stainless Steel 15-5 PH
  • Stainless Steel 17-4 PH
  • Stainless Steel 316L
  • Maraging Steel or Tool Steel
  • Cobalt Chrome
  • Titanium Ti-64
3D Printed Metal Part

Metal 3D Printing Design & Build Guidelines

3D printed metal parts are used in a variety of industries like Dental, Medical, Aerospace and Automotive for both prototype and production needs. Here are some basic guidelines to consider when using metal 3D printing:

  • Build Layers = 0.0012”-0.0016” depending on technology and material
  • Minimum Wall Thickness & Features = 0.030”-0.060” for features and walls
  • Standard Finish = Level 1 Support
    Removal Finish (see more available custom finishes)
  • Surface Finish = 150-400 RA finish depending on technology, material, geometry and orientation
  • Standard Lead Time = 2 weeks
  • Tolerances = +/- 0.005” for first inch then +/- 0.002” per inch thereafter

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I have partnered closely with TTH for over a year, and working with them has been a wonderful experience. Their entire team is always pleasant to work with, their project managers are incredibly knowledgeable, and their attention to quality and timeliness is best in class. I simply cannot recommend them highly enough for any project big or small.

- Jordan G., Additive Manufacturing Professional

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