Most Common Types of Metal 3D Printing

Industries like aerospace and automotive use metal 3D printing as they are suitable for demanding applications.

FREMONT, CA: Metal 3D printing is regarded as the pinnacle of 3D printing. There's nothing like metal when it comes to strength and toughness. DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) was the first patent for metal 3D printing, and the German company EOS filed it in the 1990s. Since then, engineers have developed new metal printing techniques, some of which are entirely different and others that are only distinct enough from DMLS to warrant their patents. It can be challenging to tell them apart.

Metal Powder Bed Fusion

DMLS (direct metal laser sintering), SLM (selective laser melting), and EBM (electron beam melting) machines fall into this group.

PBF melting technology produces metal parts free of residual stresses and internal imperfections, making them suitable for rigorous applications in the aerospace and automotive industries.

The history and classification of PBF metal 3D printers is a little distorted, and it mainly has to do with the distinction between sintering and melting.

Difference Between Metal Sintering and Melting

To make particles adhere together, sintering utilizes a mixture of heat and pressure. Melting occurs when the temperature is high enough for the particles to melt and join fully. Sintered parts have high porosity and must be reinforced with heat treatments, but they will never be as robust as forged metal parts. Melted parts, on the other hand, are almost completely solid and do not need heat treatments. 

EBM melts the metal powder with a high-power electron beam rather than a laser, and electron beams emit more energy and higher temperatures than lasers, so they can only handle (and are restricted to) high-temperature superalloys.

Parts made on metal powder bed fusion 3D printers are used in a variety of industries. Medical professionals and surgeons use these 3D printed metals for biocompatible implants, aerospace engineers for reducing aircraft weight, and industrial manufacturers use them for custom tooling equipment.

Metal PBF Pros

• A wide variety of metals are difficult to process with conventional processing methods, including the lightest titanium alloys and the hardest nickel superalloys.

• It can be machined, coated, and treated in the same way as the traditionally fabricated metal parts.

• With high precision, almost any geometry can be fabricated.

• Mechanical properties are comparable to (and sometimes superior to) those of forged metals.

See also: Top 10 3D Printing Consulting/Services Companies - 2020