Direct Metal 3D Printing:
Aluminum, Stainless Steel and Titanium

SLM Direct metal 3d printing stainless steel pliars

Selective Laser Melting (SLM) or Direct Metal 3D printing, is probably the most sophisticated 3D printing technology for metals. Metal powder is locally melted by a high-performance laser or electron beam. Unlike other 3D printing technologies that work with metals, in this technology, the printed metal parts display similar mechanical properties as conventionally produced metal pieces. Our standard metals for this printing technology are Aluminum, Stainless Steel and Titanium.






Material Properties


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In SLM / Direct Metal 3D Printing a high-energy beam locally melts metal powder. The parts display a homogeneous and almost poreless texture. Hence, the mechanical properties are very similar to conventionally processed metal parts.

We offer the following alloys: Aluminum (AlSi10Mg), Stainless Steel (1.4404| AISI 316L), Titanium (Ti6Al4V).

SLM Direct metal 3d printing aluminum grid

Aluminum (AlSi10Mg):

Aluminum is a light metal with a density of only 2.7 g/cm³. 3D printed aluminum parts are easy to post-process. Aluminum is typically used for light-weight high-strength applications. It is also a good choice for parts with high geometric complexity and/or thin walls.

SLM Direct metal 3d printing stainless steel part

Stainless Steel (1.4404 | AISI 316L):

Stainless Steel 1.4404 is corrosion resistance and strong metal. It is used, when high strength is required. 3D-printed stainless steel parts can be post processed like conventionally produced stainless steel parts.

SLM Direct metal 3d printing titanium jaw

Titan (Ti6Al4V):

High strength, high corrosion resistance, bio-compatibility and low density – Titanium is an extremely versatile material which is popular in the Aerospace, Automotive and Medical industries. With it’s bio-compatibility and unique look it is also well suited for unique jewelry pieces.

Material Stainless Steel (SLM)

Detail resolution in direct metal 3D printing is relatively god. Layer height is typically 30 – 50 µm. Details as small as 0.3 mm can be visible, for best visibility of text please design 0.5 mm minimum depth.

SLM Direct metal 3d printing titanium vs Polyjet veroblack

Surface Titanium 3D print vs. Polyjet (right) plastics.

It is common for extra metal powder particles to cover the surface of printed parts. As a result the surface feels a bit rough or grainy, similar to parts made by laser sintering.

With additional processing the surface finish can be made smooth.

Mechanical properties of SLM / direct metal 3D printed parts are comparable to conventionally processed metal parts.

 

Aluminum (AlSi10Mg)Stainless Steel (1.4404)Titanium (Ti6Al4V)
Tensile Strength, MPa
397 ± 11
633 ± 28
1,286 ± 57
Elongation at break, %
6 ± 1
30 ± 5
8 ± 2
Modulus of elasticity, GPa
64 ± 10
184 ± 20
111 ± 4
Flexural Strength, MPan.v.n.v.n.v.
Flexural Modulus, MPan.v.n.v.n.v.



3D printing process


For details on the technology and its process, please visit our page: Direct Metal 3D Printing: Technology Overview.

A layer of metal powder is spread on a build platform. A high-energy beam then melts sections of powder according to the first layer of the model. After completion of the first layer, the built platform lowers by one layer height (typically 30 – 50 µm), and the process repeats.

Since the metal is actually melted and not sintered, the parts achieve a homogeneous and nearly poreless texture.

Unlike other powder bed technologies, the powder cannot be compacted, like in laser sintering of PA12. As a result, overhanging structures need to be stabilized by support structures.





Finishing Options


After printing, we grind away the support structure to leave the surfaces visually flush with the rest of the part. For further post-production processing, 3D printed metal parts can be treated just like any other conventionally processed metal parts. This includes but not limited to milling, polishing and heat treatment.




material volume

Material Volume

Metal powder for 3D printing have tight particle size requirements. As a result these powders are more expensive than other forms of the same material. Aluminum and steel are relatively less expensive than titanium.

Bounding Box

Bounding Box

The bounding box, i.e. the space your part occupies in the machine, is an indicator for printing time and the required capacity. This is the strongest cost driver in SLM / direct metal 3D printing. The machines themselves are very expensive and operating them requires very sophisticated set-up, therefore set-up cost and cost per hour of printing time are significantly higher than other 3D printing technologies.

Finishing

Finishing

This technology requires support structures. These are made of the same metal and are fused directly to the part. Removing those structures is a manual and labor-intensive process. Though we do our best to optimize the support structure for easy removal, this may not be possible with complex part geometries. As a result there might be additional costs charged associated with removing those structures.




Wall thickness

Wall thickness: Wall thickness should not be less than 0.3 mm. For larger walls you should increase wall thickness to 0.5 mm or more.

Escape holes

Cavities: Cavities can be included in your model – one or more escape holes are required to remove the excess material from the cavity. Escape hole diameter should be at least 5 mm or more. Please note that depending on the geometry of the cavity, an internal support structure might be necessary, which in the case of metal cannot be removed. As a rule of thumb, spherical cavities normally do not require a support structures.

Distance

Clearance Gap: If your file contains two or more close but separate sections, please design at least a 2 mm gap in between, to prevent them from fusing together.

Details

Details: Details as small as 0.3 mm can be visible.

Interlocking

Interlocking Parts: Interlocking parts, such as moveable parts, can be printed pre-assembled. However, please allow a distance of at least 2 mm between the parts.

Bounding-Box

Size: The maximum size of a part should not exceed 248 x 248 x 350 mm.




SLM Direct metal 3d printing aluminum wall thickness test

Aluminum

Aluminum is used when the part requires both light-weight and good strength. The material is also suitable, for parts with complex geometry or parts with relatively thin walls.

SLM Direct metal 3d printing stainless steel pliers

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is corrosion resistant and has exceptional strength. It is suitable for most applications.

SLM Direct metal 3d printing titanium jaw

Titanium

Titanium has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio making it a great choice for high-performance applications like those found in aerospace. It is also widely used in medical technology for its bio-compatibility.



Get a quote!

Due to the complexity of the technology, there is unfortunately no instant price quote available. You can send us your model for a manual quote, which will be answered within latest one business day.


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