Metal 3D Printing Materials

3D Printing with Metals

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) is one of a number of additive-manufacturing services available from 3Diligent. Also known as direct metal laser melting (DMLM), both use a laser beam to melt metal powder dispersed as finely stacked layers. It is a process similar to powder bed fusion and the use of polymers in that process. Resulting parts are dense and have sought-after mechanical properties one would expect from metal. Like all 3D printing services, DMLS and DMLM are capable of creating complex parts with cavities and overhangs difficult or impossible using traditional or CNC machining processes. On this page, we will take a look at some of the most popular metal materials used in 3D printing: stainless steel, titanium, Inconel, nickel, and aluminum. For more information about these materials or to search for other materials, click here to use 3Depot, our material and equipment search tool. The metals described on this page can be used in various additive manufacturing processes available through our ProdEX online procurement, including powder bed fusion, directed energy deposition, binder jetting, selective laser sintering (SLS), selective laser melting, electron beam melting (EBM), powder directed energy deposition, and wire directed energy deposition.
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Stainless Steel

316 and 316L Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an ideal solution when your project requires high resistance to corrosion, some chemicals, liquids, and foods.

316L stainless steel has a low level of carbon, no more than .03, compared to the mid-range level of carbon in 316 stainless steel. Both are austenitic alloys with corrosion resistance attributed to a non-magnetic ferric carbide used during the manufacturing process.

As alloys, these metals contain chromium and nickel along with molybdenum—further adding to their corrosion-resistant qualities. 317L has even more corrosion resistance due to an additional percent or more of molybdenum.

Both fusion and resistance welding can be used to join these materials, though 316L is preferred for potentially corrosive environments. Copper and zinc can be contaminants in welded joints and may crack. Malleable, 316 and 316L stainless steel stand up to stretching and bending as well as spinning.

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Inconel

When choosing a 3D printing service from 3Diligent, Inconel and nickel can be cost effective material options. Inconel, which is difficult to machine, is an ideal material for 3D printing of components with complex or intricate designs, especially when compared to traditional subtractive manufacturing services in the machining category. It can withstand very high temperatures (up to 700°C) and is corrosion-resistant.

Nickel

Nickel alloys typically have high-strength and excellent fatigue and thermal-fatigue properties combined with superior corrosion resistance. Some alloys in this class contain significant levels of iron, niobium, and molybdenum and lesser amounts of aluminum and titanium. Many are also highly suitable for welding applications and can be precipitation-hardened. 

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Aluminum A356-T6 & 6061-T6

Aluminum alloy 356 is a metal comprised of silicon, manganese alloy, iron, and zinc. It is ideal for casting or machining. 6061 is available as an aluminum sheet, aluminum plate, aluminum bar, or aluminum angle and often chosen for structural applications as well as boats and furniture. It is a great choice for casting or welding and can be 3D printed using the direct metal laser sintering process. 

Titanium

Titanium is a popular material used in the direct metal laser sintering process (DMLS). Ti6Al4V may be the most common alloy used in metal 3D printing due to favorable mechanical properties. It is corrosion-resistant and can be used in demanding industries such as aeronautics, automotive, and industrial. It can be used to manufacture functional prototypes, solid end-use parts, medical devices, and spare parts.

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Terry Trumbull, VP of Electro-Mech Components, Aerospace Industry

We worked with 3Diligent on a urethane casting project. The breadth of materials and services they offered, including flame retardant and color options, made them a great partner on this program. We were very satisfied with the experience.

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