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What Is 3D Print Metal?


Metal 3D Printing Fundamentals

3D printing is the most heavily invested technology in the industry of manufacture. This is mainly used in aerospace, automotive engineering, mechanical engineering, special materials and more...

What Is 3D Print Metal?What Is 3D Print Metal?

In some instances, 3D printed pieces of material in metal come out just as easily as machined parts. You will discover the easiest questions about 3D. Printing to metal includes the main technologies benefits/limits etc.

The answers to these asks contain the main technology, the benefits, limitations and many other things about the use of metals in metal additive manufacturing. For details on print metal fabrication, check this guide.

3D printers are used to create direct metal laser sintering parts. This process also uses direct metal laser sintering technology which includes the use of powder that is sensitive to lasers. The direct metal laser sintering process creates complex metal parts that usually include steel or other kinds of metals with the help of direct metal printing machines.

This is the Future of Manufacturing?

Has sparked a slew of new technology in the field of 3D printing. There's been a lot of buzz about metal 3D printers recently.

Because the 3D printer metal filament technology was not widespread in the market, it wasn't given much thought. The primary reason for this is that 3D metal printing was not a viable economic option.

The internet is one of the most popular and commonly used means to communicate. With new technology, it has become one of the most frequently utilized and praised techniques.  The metal 3D printer is good for metal parts, metal powder bed fusion metal print machines.

Specifically, metal 3D printing has many advantages over the other forms of metal additive manufacturing. The metal 3D printer saves time and materials by producing products in one process instead of separate stages like traditional methods.

For example, metal 3D printers allow you to simply specify your desired geometry without having to worry about support structures or material removal processes after the metal part is printed.

Similarities In Additive Manufacturing And 3D Metal Printing

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Although these processes, 3D metal printing, and additive manufacturing, are poles apart in process and manufacturing, there are still a few similarities between the two. Let us have a look at these commonalities.

1. Both processes use a digital 3D model to create the product.

2. An important consideration in the design and construction of a product is the type and amount of support material that will be required to span between layers.

3. Indirect metal laser sintering (DMLS), direct metal laser sintering, as its name suggests, uses direct metal lasers for heating and melting metal powder at high temperatures to produce the final part. The direct metal laser sintering process works by following similar steps to the selective laser melting process steps.

4. The post-processing step after direct metal laser sintering is a typical one in which the material is cleaned and polished if any residue from the previous procedure remains, or finishing touches are added before it's put together.

Powder Media In 3D Printer Metal Filament

powdered metals
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In most metal 3d printing, there is metal powder. In some exceptions, there can be filament or wire that is specifically in 3D printer metal filament.

Most 3D printers use powders, and even in additive manufacturing, the powder is melted when done on a high-scale production. In other cases of additive manufacturing, the plastic is melted into a liquid material that goes down through the heated nozzle. It comes down in the form of a filament. Some of the metal 3D printers also go with this type of process where a heated nozzle forms a wire. It is mainly used in electric arc welding.

The heating process can be risky when used on a commercial scale. So in such cases, powder media is preferred. In 3D metal printing, the heated nozzle can interact with the molten metal, which will ruin everything. So what we use is powdered metal. It is localized with a laser or some high-energy and low-energy technology according to the requirement.  

Bound Powder Vs. Loose Powder

Both loose powders and bound powders are used in 3D metal printing, but the bound powder is preferred. It is used in metal FFF.

Is mainly not used because it risked inflammation and respiratory hazard. It is hard to handle on a large scale, and exceptional preventive measures need to be observed when dealing with it. When dealing with loose powder, you need to use PPE for the labour and ventilation in the manufacturing room.

Whereas, in the case of bound powder, the only thing you need to take care of is that the binding material needs to be removed properly. Otherwise, it is a very safe option.  

High Energy Event

In additive manufacturing, the plastic needs to be melted at a very high temperature. It is usually from 200 to 400 degrees. It involves the usage of some high-energy events. Similarly, in 3D metal printing, you will need a high temperature to melt the metal. However, the temperature is around 1000 and 1400 degrees.

This implies that it still involves some high-energy event to make the final product no matter what the process is. It is not only used in melting but also in some other methods.

During Printing

During the printing process, there is a detailed use of energy alternating from high to low. High energy power needs to be utilized to make the final product better to achieve certain intricacies of the product. It can be in the form of a laser or any other state.

It still leaves behind some flaws, which are solved by high energy after the printing process.

printed parts
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After Printing

Once you have achieved a final product, specific internal stresses need to be solved. The main thing involving high-energy events is joining the individually manufactured parts. It can be used for both bound and loose metal powders. After the sintering process, there aren't many internal stresses, but a few additional steps can even solve that.


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Those of you who are not aware of sintering are mainly to transform a lightly bound part into a whole metal part. With high energy and heat, you can remove the trace amounts by burning them. As the melting point of metal reaches, the metal is molded together, making the 3D metal product stronger.

Having several metal parts, it is possible to summarize the types of metals used to make the products. This includes steel alloy, aluminium alloy( including cast and wrought), titanium alloy( including 6al4v, 3al2.5v), etc especially stainless steel. The product would require different process parameters to get the final part out.

This additive manufacturing technique does not need any support structure during printing because it can be easily removed after printing with a minimal finishing process to get rid of small defects on the surface. Although there are still some issues to consider such as very limited options for available materials and post-processing requirements which will harm the final quality of your part due to machining needed to remove support structures from your model.

Metal powder

metal powder
[image from Businesswire.com]

The metal powder used in the process is usually coated with a binder such as wax or polymers, which allows them to bond together and get through the printer's nozzle. The major printing techniques available for use are direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), Electron Beam additive manufacturing (EBM), and Selective Laser Melting (SLM). With each different method, there will be advantages and disadvantages you should consider before producing your 3D printed part

metal powder
[image from fortune.com]

3D printer metal filament processes

Now that we have answered the question, can you print Metal? Let us move to the next step, which is the process by which you can use metal to make 3D objects.

There are many processes, but for the course of this blog, we will cover three of them with their key points, which are:

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Metal FFF

metal 3d printer
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This technique is the most popular in 3D metal printing. It's also known as Bound Powder Extrusion.

It is produced utilizing a powder metal injection molding feedstock. After the creation of metal items from this, a de-binding system and sintering surface are used to eliminate any impurities. The end product is entirely made of metal as a result.

Computational metal printing

metal 3d printing
[image from thefabricator.com]

A metal printer that uses metal powder and a metal-binding agent, such as the electron beam melting metal printer. The machine employs a three-dimensional design file supplied by the customer to produce an item in metal. The 3D printed metal object is pure metal material and becomes fully dense after using post-processing additive processes.

Working Of Metal FFF

metal 3d printing work
[image from all3dp.com]

The Metal FFF process is used in many commercial manufacturing applications. This metal 3D printer is mainly known for its accessibility. The bounder powder extrusion process works in 3 steps. The first one is the extrusion and then the sintering of the product to make it entirely of metal.

The three steps are:

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1. Printing

In the first part, the metal-bound powder in plastic is extruded through a 3D metal printer. The scaling is done more than the usual size to be compensated in the final sintering.

2. Washing

After the printing, the product is dried and then placed in the washer. It uses a de-binding fluid to dissolve all the binding material from the metal.

3. Sintering

After washing, it is heated in a furnace. A metal-specific profile is added to it, which burns the reaming binding material and also solidifies the metal.

Essential Concerns About Metal FFF

There are a few things you should consider when using a metal FFF 3d metal printer.

  • It is not for solid parts that include cell infill.
  • If there is a substantial part, it increases the sintering time to remove the binding material deep down from all the crevices. It ruins the metal shape.
  • The metal does not have a high tolerance for heat which may burn it in the sintering process.


Following are the pros of using the metal FFF process in 3D metal printing.

  • It has a meagre investment and cost as compared to any other metal or steel 3D printer.
  • It is a safer process that can be used with lesser training and precautions.
  • When a higher yield is produced, the sintering process of high power uses lesser energy.
  • It offers wide metal availability. You can use any metal or alloy in it to make the product.

Current Outlook

Metal FFF is used very frequently in industries, and it is getting more famous by the day. As new types of machinery are being introduced in the market, its scope is increasing.

printed parts
[image from markforged.com]

Long Term View

Metal FFF is a very diverse process in terms of accessibility, affordability, and variations. So it is probably believed that this process will become a regular usage process for 3D metal printing.

Powder Bed Fusion

selective laser melting
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It is the most mature and current 3D metal printing technology in the market.

Laser metal deposition

This method uses a high energy laser beam that melts powder metal and it is used to deposit down layer by layer onto a tank or build table until your finished piece has been created. It's known because of its accuracy and capability to create intricate geometry that may be difficult with traditional machining methods. Direct metal laser sintering (DS)

The primary advantage of the electron beam sintering technique is that it can create metal objects at a much faster speed than other conventional powder bed fusion technologies. Powder bed fusion

This production process employs a thin layer of powder material and fuses this with a direct electron beam or the laser. This produces areas of solid metal without having to use support structures, which makes them ideal for delicate geometries as well as those with undercuts.

There are various types of electron beams readily available these days but they work broadly following the same principles where particles from the electron gun are accelerated towards the target material, carried by electric and magnetic fields.

How It Works

  • A laser is mounted on the framework of the product and fuses the metal powder along those lines.
  • A powder distribution jet spray or push a layer of powder over the previous one, which was earlier treated with laser.
  • After its fusion, another layer is layered till it completes.
  • After the completion, there is a post-process procedure as required.

Essential Concerns About Powder Bed Fusion

  • You will need trained men to do it with proper PPE. If not, then the end product will not be as desired.
  • The process has prevailed for more than 20 years in the market, but still, it is a costly process for 3D metal printing.
  • Unlike other processes, there is no repetition of the process in it. So the complex parts need to be achieved accurately in the first go. If it is repeated, there is a very high risk that the parts will deform or crack.
  • You can remove internal stresses with very precision; otherwise, it will crack.


  • Powder bed fusion can achieve ultra-complex geometries and large parts formation. This feature is not included any of the other two mentioned processes.
  • It has prevailed and matured for so many years so that you can use as many different materials.

Current Outlook

Powder bed fusion has been the market leader as a metal and steel 3D printer. Other 3D metal printing processes which have tried to reach this level could not achieve the accuracy or were too expensive.

The metal printing process is a very complex technology because several variables must be considered to make this work such as powder size, speed and accuracy (to name a few).

When this becomes perfected it could mean the creation of millions of metal products all over the world. This means more jobs, better industries and cheaper prices on goods, including cars!

Long Term View

It is seen as more industries will use this process; it will bring leverage to the diversity of products and materials for this process. Another thing that is seen for the future is that more users might make the machinery and process more accessible.

Direct metal laser sintering

selective laser melting
[image from linkedin.com]

Where laser sintering traces a pattern on a surface, Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) uses a powerful laser to trace a three-dimensional pattern of material inside the metal. DMDLS is used to directly produce end products from powdered metals or alloys.

This process is an excellent fit for injection moulding tools where there are many components of the same size with similar shapes and thicknesses. In this process, parts can be precisely created with no tooling costs as well as short delivery times.

Binder Jetting

printed parts
[image from markforged.com]

Binder jetting uses polymer binders in liquid form, which use loose metal powder to make metal 3D products. The parts formed by this can be sintered in different batches.

It is a somewhat new technique in the market, and it is emerging well.

How It Works

Binder jetting is a two-step process. In the first step, the inkjet type nozzle injects all the binder material onto a metal powder bed. After each layer, there is a layer of powder on which the binder is spared and allowed to settle. It is repeated until the process is completed and all parts are built.

After all of this, there is post-processing sintering. The powder is brushed off, and then the product is heated so that all the binder material is removed, leaving behind a metal 3D product.

Important Concerns About Binder Jetting

  • Binder jetting machines are cheaper than powder bed fusion, but it is still expensive compared to other 3D printer metal filaments.
  • The precautions and PPE for it is also the same as it involves loose binding powder.
  • The prices range from $300K to $2 million, which are still too much for a metal 3Dprinter or Steel 3D printer considering its usage.


Although the process is now used well, there are a few limitations to it that are not yet sorted out.

  • The parts that come out of the process should have reliable mechanical properties to be reused, but it is not figured out yet.
  • There are no definite part size constraints about it, yet how big parts are easy to manufacture by the binder jetting process.
  • Even after printing, some parts are fragile, which makes sintering difficult.
  • The question of the reliability of the machines remains unanswered even after so much usage.


Despite all these limitations and concerns, there are many advantages to this process. Some of them are as follows:

  • The process is swift, and you can get many parts in one go.
  • You can produce all the delicate parts as the inkjet head is extremely precise.
  • Because of its ability to produce many parts from one piece, it has the greatest advantage of any milling process. Despite constraints, manufacturers have chosen this method because of its capacity to generate numerous components from a single piece.

Current Outlook

Binder jetting is not yet very common among regular users because 3D metal printing by this process can be expensive.

But still, some companies are making investments in such industrial products and 3D metal printing machines; they are using this technology for mass production.

Long Term View

There can be significant developments in this process in 3D metal printing because of its ability to mass production. But it is still dependant on if the manufacturers find a way to overcome all the limitations.

Which is the best metal 3D printer in 2021?

metal 3d printer
[image from slm-solutions.com]

Metal additive Manufacturing is developing metal additive machines that are faster, easier to use, and more powerful with a larger number of compatible metals. Many businesses adopt these 3D metal printing technologies as they can produce cost-effective metal 3D parts and prototypes.

They can be applied in various industries including aerospace automotive health science, engineering and more. Although metal 3D printing prices have been gradually dropping, these machines are still relatively expensive purchases and ranging between $80 and almost $1 million. We aim to present a comprehensive overview of products from well-established and distributed brands, at different price points and with different metal printing technologies.

selective laser melting
[image from mdpi.com]

One of the most common metal 3D printers used in additive manufacturing is selective laser melting (SLM). The process involves using a high powered laser beam that selectively melts, then fuses metal powders into solid structures. These printers are fast and can create complex designs with many layers on their own.

Due to the high metal density generated by conventional SLM machines, no further processing is required after printing. Metal 3D parts are also produced with additive technologies like direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

Aerospace Metal Additive Manufacturing companies include Metaltec Innovations, Metal3d, Unidym, Stratasys, HP Metal Jet and more.

How much does a metal 3D printer cost?

In order to answer your question, we will first need to know what you are looking for. Many 3D printers cost anywhere from about USD 1,000- to $10,000+ depending on what you are aiming for. For a more specific answer contact, a metal 3D printer creating company and they should be able to help!

metal 3d printer
[image from /markforged.com]

Metal X™ System

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Metal 3D printing is too expensive

Metal additive production of products can cost the most in one form or the other. Some AM components are capable of over a million dollars making them only available to large corporations. Several companies are specifically promoting three-dimensional printing to an industry level below $2000.

Such systems are intended to democratise metal 3D printing to enable them to be used in wider applications. Examples include Xact Metal, Laser Melting Innovations (LMI) and One Click Metal. This LMI Alpha 140 3D printer uses a diode laser which is cheaper and less prone to damage than a CO2 laser. Others have equipped their systems with less costly components to cut operational costs.

FDM printing materials

produce metal parts
[image from markforged.com]

From stainless steel to copper, select from a wide variety of solid, durable and versatile materials. A2 can be tempered to 50 HRC and is rigid. D2 is ultra abrasion-resistant. A proprietary nickel-chromium alloy excels at higher temperatures and in strong corrosive environments.

A metal used in cold works having exceptional mechanical properties like corrosion resistance and heat resistance. Used for many fabrication applications. Used as die tool, stamp and cutting tool. Used in cars and aerospace. It's an exclusive. Nickel chromium alloy with outstanding strength. And the roof. The temperature. It is corrosives. Environment.

Stainless Steel 316L

BASF Ultrafuse 316L is the workhorse to use to manufacture acid resistant parts and coatings. Select 316L when stainless steel flexibility is required.

316L can offer more malleable materials than 17-4 PH. Final parts made with 316L receive relief from corrosion application. Steel stainless steel 316L ensures tension.

Stainless steel (17-4 PH)

corrosion resistance

17-4 PH Stainless steel [FDM] is precipitation-hardened stainless steel renowned for its hardness and corrosion resistance. It has significantly higher tensile strength and yield power but has much less elongation at break than 316L. Final pieces built 17-2 PH receive vacuum solution heat treatment along with H900 age treatments. 17-3 PH is a full-purpose stainless steel variant built on 316L.


quality parts
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Copper combines good mechanical properties with thermal and electrical conductivity. This alloy can be tested to rough conditions where pure copper cannot be achieved. It is structurally stronger, hard, and has higher elongation in contrast to aluminum alloys as well as metallurgical and electrical conductivity properties. Final parts built with copper receive a stress-relieving application. The final parts of this copper will be used in several parts of the world.

Inconel 625

3d printed
[image from markforged.com/]

Inconel 625 is a nickel-chromium alloy that is extremely resistant to corrosion and strong at high temperatures.

It's simple to make, allowing you to produce practical prototypes and end-use components for extreme conditions. Markforged Inconel 625 satisfies ASTM B443 chemical standards while retaining a UTS of 500 MPa at 600 ºC.

H13 Tool Steel

3d printed
[image from markforged.com/]

H13 tool steel is a highly versatile material for crafting cutlery that can endure greater than 17-4 PH stainless steel and can keep materials properties at high temperatures.

H13 steel is also used in the Markforged M2, which may be heat treated to 45 HRC and has a UTS of 1500 MPa.

3D printing in metals gives product designers and creatives the ultimate material for their work.

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[image from Proto3000.com]

Steels are 3D printed using DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering). A very fine metal powder is melted with a laser to produce your design layer by layer. Once your plan is finished any support structure is removed and finishing is complete. The unusual powder is used for a new model.

Metal 3D printing offers metal as a material, meaning we can achieve the highest quality and most complex metal parts. The metal 3D printing process is similar to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and other metalworking techniques: it pulls metal through a printer nozzle to create parts and objects of any size and shape. It's capable of producing extremely precise metal parts, metal parts with an accelerated speed of production, metal parts without support materials, metal parts with complex geometry.

Metal 3D printing is suitable only for low-volume production.

metal materials
[image from amfg.ai]

Metal 3D printing is a favorite method used for producing mainly smaller-sized parts. Some metallic 3D printers, notably that use binder jetting technology can accommodate medium to larger amounts. The intelligent Layering Technology of 3DEO ensures high volumes, repeated output, and automation on metal parts. Desktop Metal's production system can print 60 kg of metal parts per hour which makes it ideal for complex metal parts at high volume. As possible alternatives to machining these methods demonstrate that the industry is developing solutions for faster metal printing taking the technology to the next level of the production system.

Metal 3D printers can only print small parts.

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[image form businesswire.com]

In 2020 almost all the 3D printing equipment on the market would be small parts measuring about centimeters. Large parts are often hard to create due to the accumulation of stress inside the parts. The larger the part the greater the temperature, this increases residual pressure and the increase in part sturdiness. And this is why bigger parts are often produced by other metal AM technologies like direct energy deposition and reagent additive manufacturing. Lockheed Martin uses EBAM technology. The patented invention would provide two giant domes for storing gas in high-pressure liquid that can travel on satellites.

Metal parts are inferior to conventional metal parts.

Numerous manufacturers remain unsure if metal printed parts will be the same in quality as conventionally formed pieces. This technology may help manufacturers reap the benefits of new efficient but also lighter metal products.

Metal AM parts are increasingly widely used in critical systems like rocket engines, heat exchanges and other turbine parts. Although achieving a qualified Metal AM workflow can be a challenging task, manufacturers are adopting technologies to reap benefits of its metal technology to benefit from lighter, more effective and stronger steel components.

Main advantages of complex metal parts

tensile strength
[image from all3dp.com]

Metal 3D printing is highly recommended when a complicated product requires intricate details where some technologies are inefficient or difficult to use.

Other benefits of using metal in the printing process include the ability to create complex objects of complex shapes. In addition, the advantages are namely the possibility of producing new products.

For complex objects and shapes, 3D printing is almost unexplicit. And even without software, this ability can be limiting. The best way to print is to print a complex part with such high complexity it is necessary to make a new piece.

Author Team 3DMITECH LTD

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