There are several ways to 3D print metal parts, and these affect your cost, speed, and efficiency. The cheapest way to 3D print metal is to use an aluminum alloy. Aluminum alloys are the most commonly used metals in 3D printing and are less expensive than other metals such as stainless steel. You can also use a desktop 3D printer to print aluminum parts, which makes this option more affordable.
Laser Powder Bed Fusion
Laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) is the most common metal 3D printing technology. It melts metal powder into small parts, resulting in a part that is ready to use. This technology can be used to print parts made from aluminum, stainless steel, and other metals.
FDM – Metal Powder infusion
FDM, a 3D printing technology that uses plastic filament, turns into a metal printing technology if the plastic part of the filament is infused with metal powder or nearly full-metal filament. This makes FDM a cheaper option for 3D printing metal parts.
EBM uses electron beams to melt and fuse metals in a vacuum, resulting in material properties that are comparable to wrought material.
Binder jetting, which distributes a layer of metal powder and then uses a jetting head to deposit a binding polymer to create the geometry, is poised to overtake SLM as the industry standard.
Cold Spraying Metal Powders
Cold spraying metal powders at supersonic speeds can bond them without melting them and can produce more precise geometries than typical 3D printers.
Cold spraying is used for metal parts replacement and on-location repairs, saving companies potentially millions in remanufacturing and interruption in workflows.
DED Direct Energy Deposition
Directed energy deposition (DED) technologies use heat to melt metal powder or wire and are often used for the repair and maintenance of existing metal parts. DED is also used in the production of new metal parts and can be used to create very large parts.
Desktop 3D Printers
The most affordable way to produce metal parts is to use metal filament on desktop 3D printers initially designed for plastics. However, this method is less accurate than other metal 3D printing technologies and can require supports and debonding.
DMLS – Selective Laser Sintering
Selective laser sintering (SLS) is a type of 3D printing technology that’s used in mass production and rapid prototyping. SLS is similar to selective laser melting (SLM). The difference is that it’s sintered, not melted together. This makes it more affordable and accessible.
3D printing technology has come a long way in the past few years, and one of the most recent advancements is the ability to print metal parts. There are several different ways to print metal parts, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most important thing to consider when choosing a printing method is the cost, speed, and efficiency.