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For Consumers & Small Businesses

2019 Metal 3D Printer Buyer’s Guide

Picture of Anatol Locker
by Anatol Locker
Jul 15, 2019

Check out our metal 3D printer buyer's guide to learn about the latest advancements in metal 3D printing: New printers, printing services, technologies, applications, materials and more.

Metal 3D printing has become increasingly popular. And rightfully so: each material offers a unique combination of practical and aesthetic properties to suit a variety of products, be it prototypes, miniatures, jewelry, functional parts or even kitchenware.

One reason metal 3D printing has become such a hot topic is that parts can be serially 3D printed for mass production. In fact, some parts created with metal 3D printing are already just as good, if not better, than those manufactured by traditional methods.

In traditional manufacturing, making metal and plastic objects i a wasteful process. Plenty of chunky parts are produced and surplus material used. When aircraft makers manufacture metal parts, up to 90% of the material is cut away. 3D printing metal parts uses less energy and reduces waste to a minimum. And finished 3D printed products can be up to 60% lighter than their machined counterparts. The aviation industry alone saves billions of dollars through this weight reduction, mainly due to fuel.

Although you can’t technically print with pure metal on your desktop machine, there are a number of metal-filled plastic filaments that provide a metallic aesthetic to your prints.

If you want to learn more about metal 3D printing filament for consumer machines, click here to skip ahead to our metal 3D printing filament section.

If you just want to get a few metal parts professionally 3D printed we recommend Craftcloud, the 3D printing and price comparison service from All3DP.


The Latest in Metal 3D Printing Technology

Before we get into the basics of metal 3D printing, let’s take a glance at the latest innovations in this expansive field. Over the past couple of years, a number of new players have emerged, transforming the landscape of the traditional metal 3D printer.

Although metal 3D printing is not quite at the consumer level, the technology has taken many strides. What once was confined to industrial-sized and expensive machines is now becoming accessible to small-to-medium businesses. Here are the latest companies that are disrupting the traditional metal 3D printer:

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Sharebot

Sharebot, an Italian-headquartered developer, has worked over the years to bring 3D printing systems to market and help introduce the technologies into small and medium businesses. Gradually expanding its product range from desktop machines to more professional systems, and after years of research have arrived at its first metal 3D printer, which debuted at MECSPE, a manufacturing trade show in Parma, Italy in spring 2019.

The metalONE 3D printer is the continuation of a project that has evolved from Sharebot’s SnowWhite selective laser sintering machine for thermoplastic powders, which the company launched three years ago. The metalONE also uses a powerful laser (1070μm 200W) to selectively sinter metal powder (SLS technology) within a print area of 65 x 65 x 100 mm. Equipped with a group of three filters for the inert gas circuit, Sharebot guarantees the air is completely free of metal particles. For this reason, and the compact design, the company believes the system is suitable for universities and research laboratories.

The MetalOne will be shipped from November 2019.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

HP Metal Jet

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: HP Metal Jet

Another company that wants to make a name for themselves in the metal 3D printing scene is no other than HP. During the 2018 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), the tech giant unveiled HP Metal Jet, an advanced metal 3D printing technology that is capable of creating production-grade metal parts at a high volume.

HP claims that the new additive manufacturing system will provide users with up to 50 times more productivity at a significantly lower cost compared to other metal 3D printing methods. Similar to HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, HP Metal Jet utilizes voxel-level binder jetting. It offers a print volume of 430 x 320 x 200mm, four times the nozzle redundancy and two times the print bars. This potentially groundbreaking system will use significantly less binder by weight while delivering exceptional productivity and reliability.

HP has also partnered with GKN Powder Metallurgy and Parmatech to offer its Metal Jet Production Service. Allowing customers to order industrial-grade metal parts produced by the new system, without having to fully invest in their own HP Metal Jet system.

As for the commercial availability of the HP Metal Jet, the company plans to sell the system for under $399,000. Early customers are expected to receive the metal 3D printing system in 2020, while broad availability will begin in 2021. You can already pre-order the HP Metal Jet system today.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Aurora Labs

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Aurora Labs

Another metal 3D printing newcomer that has emerged in this growing market segment is the Australian manufacturer Aurora Labs.

Aurora Labs’ Rapid Manufacturing Printer One (RMP1) is the world’s first Direct Metal Laser Melting (DMLM) 3D printer featuring Multi-layer Concurrent Printing (MCP) technology. Aurora’s patented MCP technology allows for direct metal 3D printing at rates much faster than was previously possible with the established single layer DMLM technology.

Recently Aurora Labs announced the launch of the RMP1 Beta Printer, a fully operational pre-production 3D printer, bringing Aurora Labs one step closer to their commercialization goal. They are now gathering valuable feedback from early customers and tests, and the RMP1 is expected to be released later this year.

The printer will be more sophisticated than the company’s previous models. For instance, with a build volume of up to 450 x 450 x 400 mm, the RMP1 Beta is capable of printing parts 10x the volume of the company’s previous test machine, the Alpha.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Stratasys

Recognized as one of the most decorated veterans in the additive manufacturing industry, even Stratasys is developing its own metal 3D printing system. Announced back in February 2018, Stratasys is creating a metal system that will aim to tackle short-run production of metal parts.

While most details are still under wraps, we do know that the new machine will utilize Layered Powder Metallurgy (LPM) technology. The process, which was first disclosed in early 2018, is being developed to improve the speed, cost, and facility of 3D printing metal parts. The technique, which has been in development for several years at Stratasys, is based on the company’s proprietary PolyJet jetting technology and uses readily available metallurgy powders and a unique binder approach to increase the efficiency.

However, since the announcement in 2018, there has not been much information on when the printer might be market ready. Furthermore, the German manufacturer, EOS, a producer of systems for the additive manufacturing of components in metal and polymers has recently announced the acquisition of Vulcan Labs, the former Stratasys spin-off company. Vulcan Labs was primarily researching into metal additive manufacturing.


Industrial Metal 3D Printing and Applications

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Industrial Metal 3D Printing

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Industrial Metal 3D Printing

What if you want better results or even full metal 3D prints? Should you buy a metal 3D printer for your business? We wouldn’t advise it unless you want to do metal 3D printing every day. The price for such a machine is high: a professional metal 3D printer from EOS or Stratasys will set your business back by up to $500,000. And apart from the initial payment, you’ll need people to operate and maintain the machine as well as finalize prints (i.e. polishing).

Simply put, there’s no such thing as an affordable metal 3D printer (yet).

Lower the costs of metal 3D printing

Unless you want to start a 3D printing metal business and you need a professional part 3D printed in metal, you’re better off using a 3D printing service to suit your needs. Companies like Shapeways, Sculpteo, and i.materialise offer purely metal 3D printed parts.

3D printing metal materials

  • Aluminum
  • Steel
  • Brass
  • Copper
  • Bronze
  • Sterling silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Titanium

Services often turn to other companies that are specialized in metal production to finish the order. Nevertheless, the number of metal 3D printing services is growing rapidly all over the world. And at the same time, metal 3D printers are becoming more common at 3D printing services.

The reason big companies like metal 3D printing so much is that it can be used to build “topologically optimized” parts. This makes it possible to perfectly distribute the material in a component in order to make it thicker only where it needs to withstand more stresses, thus drastically reducing the weight without sacrificing structural integrity. However, this is not the only technology out there. Some are significantly more affordable and more accessible.

Please be aware that metal 3D printing requires special CAD designs. For general information, Shapeways offers metal 3D printing guidelines. For even more advanced information, take a look at this article from Stratasys, which discusses metal 3D printers and the nuances of metal 3D printing.

Here are some examples of 3D printing metal prices of the common Benchy test model:

3D printing metal prices

  • Metallic Plastic : $22.44 (former “Alumide”, PLA with aluminum)
  • Stainless Steel: $83.75 (plated, polished)
  • Bronze: $299.91 (solid, polished)
  • Silver: $713.47 (solid, mirror polished)
  • Gold: $87,75 (gold plated, polished)
  • Gold: $12,540 (solid 18k gold)
  • Platinum: $27,314 (solid, polished)

As you might expect, the prices for solid metal 3D printing go way up.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Metal 3D Printing for Engineers and 3D Designers

What do engineers and designers have to know about metal 3D printing? First of all, there are three different metal 3D printing methods you should know about.

Metal 3D printing technologies

  1. Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), also known as selective laser sintering (SLS) and selective laser melting (SLM), is a powder bed system and the most popular metal 3D printing process. Essentially a laser selectively melts a 2D design onto a flattened bed of powder before a new layer is pushed on top and the process is repeated. The process is slow and requires a more careful design approach, but the results pay off: strength and durability.
  2. Directed energy deposition (DED) or laser metal deposition (LMD) is a powder-fed system. It sends a highly concentrated metal powder stream through an extruder, which is immediately met with a laser at the surface of the part. DED is a highly accurate metal 3D printing process, which can also be used to repair broken parts.
  3. Metal binder jetting applies a liquid binding resin onto a powdered metal material. This 3D printing metal technology is fast, relatively cheap, and can also be used to create large structures. The drawback lies in the process: the resulting strengths and densities can’t be compared to the real thing. You can post-process binder-jetted parts to make them stronger, but this will cost you some additional time.

You can find more on the metal 3D printing technologies here.

Things you should consider when 3D printing with metal

There are some common misconceptions when it comes to 3D metal printing.

  • Every metal 3D printing material has specific properties you have to consider in the designing process. You can get the specifications from the manufacturer or the metal 3D printing service directly.
  • Most 3D designs can’t simply be 3D printed in metal without additional design changes.
  • Most 3D objects designed for CNC milling aren’t compatible with metal 3D printing. CNC objects have more volume. Printing such an object in metal would be very costly.
  • Objects printed on metal 3D printers have different properties than cast metal objects.

With that said, the benefits of metal 3D printing are great.

The benefits of 3D printing metal

  • reliable with consistent results
  • relatively strong
  • relatively lightweight
  • minimal wast
  • unique, complex structures that can’t be casted
  • technology of the aerospace business

The drawbacks of 3D printing metal

  •  difficult to find the right design parameters
  • mass production not (yet) possible
  • takes a lot of time to produce
  • cannot produce very big parts
Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Metal 3D Printing Applications

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Metal 3D Printing Applications
(image: GE)

Some industrial sectors already use metal 3D printers for everyday objects – ones you may not even know are 3D printed.

  • The most common are medical and dental implants, which are already considered the best available option for the patients. That’s because fittings can easily be adapted to individuals’ needs.
  • The second section is jewelry. In this case, most manufacturers are switching from resin 3D printing and lost wax casting to direct metal 3D printing.
  • The aerospace industry is also becoming more and more dependent on metal 3D printing. Ge-AvioAero in Italy was the first full 3D printing factory in the world. It makes components for the LEAP jet engine.
  • The next industry that will use metal 3D printers is the automotive sector. BMW, Audi, FCA are already seriously considering it, not just for prototypes (where they have used 3D printing for years), but also for actual parts.

Before metal 3D printing can take off, some hurdles will need to be overcome. Primarily it’s the high cost, which can’t be scaled down through molds. Additionally, the low speed of production is problematic for metal 3D printing.


Metal 3D Printing Services

Worldwide, more than 100 companies offer their services to 3D print metal objects. The following are the most popular metal 3D printing services for consumer use.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Craftcloud

Allow us to introduce All3DP’s all-in-one solution to get the best price for any 3D printed object. The most popular 3D printing services Shapeways, Sculpteo, and i.materialise and many dedicated specialists can be accessed via Craftcloud. Craftcloud fetches the prices directly from the 3D printing services, all prices can be compared in real-time.

The 3D printing platform will show you which metal materials each leading 3D printing service has to offer. After uploading your 3D model, you’ll receive real-time prices and shipping information in a matter of seconds.

So, if you want to get the best possible price for high-quality metal parts, be sure to Craftcloud.

3D Printing Metals: Aluminum, brass, bronze, cobalt chromium, copper, gold, platinum, steel, silver, titanium. Most metals are available in various finishes.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Shapeways

Shapeways, the world’s most popular online 3D printing service, offers two services. As a consumer, you choose from a broad range of professionally designed items, customize them, and have them printed to your specifications. Similar to other 3D printing services, Shapeways offers storefronts to designers who can then sell and print their work. Shapeways is also suitable for rapid prototyping. Customers benefit from industrial grade printers (EOS, 3D Systems) and dedicated technical support.

3D Printing Metals: Aluminum, brass, bronze, gold, platinum, steel, silver, and precious plated metals. Also available is castable wax for jewelers.

Note: Shapeways can also be accessed via Craftcloud

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Sculpteo

Like Shapeways and i.materialise, Sculpteo is an online 3D printing service that allows anyone to upload 3D models and have them fabricated in a wide variety of materials. In keeping with its competitors, Sculpteo also allows individuals and professionals to open up an online storefront and sell their designs to the public. Sculpteo’s stable of printers includes high-end machines from 3D Systems, EOS, Stratasys, and ZCorp. Its extensive technical documentation will help you detect design flaws and choose the right material for your project.

3D Printing Metals: Alumide (plastic with aluminum particles), brass, silver.

Note: Sculpteo can be accessed via Craftcloud.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: i.materialse

i.materialise is a company that works with industries to produce prototypes and 3D printed products. But for the general public and individual designers, i.materialise offers an online 3D printing service called i.materialise. Like Shapeways, the online 3D printing service allows anyone to upload their 3D designs and have them printed out. Once an object has been uploaded and successfully printed, a designer can offer it for sale either via the gallery on the i.materalise online store, or embedded on their website.

3D Printing Metals: Alumide (plastic with aluminum powder), brass, bronze, copper, gold, silver, steel, titanium.

Note: i.materialise can be accessed via Craftcloud

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

3D Hubs

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: 3D Hubs

Through the 3D Hubs platform, you can search for individuals and businesses that offer 3D printing services in your area, upload your STL file for an instant estimate, and connect with them directly to get the job done. This online 3D printing service also allows you to filter by materials, by user rating, by distance, and multiple other factors. Regardless of the type of item you want to have printed, there’s likely someone in your vicinity who can print it for you. A considerable number of materials can be printed in industrial quality, marked as “HD” in the search field.

3D Printing Metals: Aluminum, bronze, cobalt chromium, stainless steel, titanium.


Metal 3D Printing Technologies

The main issues with metal 3D printing are the same as with any 3D printer: software and hardware limitations, material optimization, and multi-materiality.

Although we won’t focus too much on software here, it is worth mentioning that the largest publishers, like Autodesk, SolidWorks, and solidThinking, are all working on products to support as much as possible metal 3D printing processes.

In general, 3D printed metal parts can be as strong as traditionally manufactured metal components. The parts created with DMLS have mechanical properties equivalent to a cast metal part. Also, the porosity of an object made by a good metal 3D printer can reach 99.5% density. In fact, manufacturer Stratasys claims 3D printed metals are above industry standards for density testing.

3D printed metal is available in several resolutions. At its highest resolution, the layer thickness is 0.0008” – 0.0012” and the X/Y resolution is 0.012” – 0.016”. The minimum hole diameter is 0.035” – 0.045”.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Direct Metal Laser Sintering

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Direct Metal Laser Sintering
EOS GmbH Krailling 22.10.2015 Foto: Tobias Hase (www.hase-fotografie.de)

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), also known as selective laser sintering (SLS) and selective laser melting (SLM), is the metal 3D printing process that most large companies are taking into consideration today. It works in the following way: An energy source (a laser or another energy beam) fuses an “atomized” powder (perfectly round, tiny, spherical particles) to create layers of an object.

More than ten major metal 3D printer producers in the world use this technology in their machines, with even more entering the market. Most, such as EOS, are located in Germany.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Directed Energy Deposition

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Directed Energy Deposition

You might think that the only 3D printing process “missing” from metal 3D printing is fused filament deposition, but that is not entirely true. And while you can’t fuse metal filament on your desktop, industrial metal manufacturers can. And do. There are two ways to go about “depositing metal.”

One is called Directed energy deposition (DED) or laser metal deposition (LMD). A laser beam fuses metal powder as it is slowly released and deposited to form the layers of an object by an industrial robotic arm. Although the process is usually executed inside a closed chamber, a recent MX3D project implemented a similar approach to 3D print a full-size bridge.

The other deposition technology is called Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM), a type of soldering process, where a powerful electron beam is used to fuse a 3 mm thick titanium wire and the molten metal is shaped into very large metal structures. However, unless you work for the Department of Defense, you are unlikely to run into this technology.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Binder Jetting

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Binder Jetting
ExOne's 3DP technology 3D prints metal parts by binding the powder together before firing it up in a kiln (image: ExOne)

Another professional approach that uses a power bed is “binder jetting.” In this case, layers are formed by gluing together the metal particles and later sintering (or melting) them together in a high-temperature kiln, just like you would do for ceramics.

One other possibility, which is also similar to ceramics-based crafts, is to mix the metal powder into a metal paste — using a pneumatic extrusion 3D printer (like a syringe bioprinter or a low-cost food printer) to form the 3D objects. Once you’ve 3D printed the desired shape, the objects are once again sintered in a kiln.

Mini Metal Maker uses this approach, possibly the only genuinely affordable metal 3D printer out there.


3D Printing Metals

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Titanium

Pure titanium (Ti64 or TiAl4V) is one of the most commonly used materials in metal 3D printing, thanks to its versatility, strength, and lightness. It’s used both in powder bed fusion and binder jetting processes, mainly in the medical industry (to make personalized prosthetics) and the aerospace/automotive/tooling industries (to make parts and prototypes). The only catch? It’s highly reactive, which means it can easily explode when in powder form. That’s why it needs to be 3D printed in a vacuum or an argon gas atmosphere.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Stainless Steel

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is one of the most affordable materials in metal 3D printing. It’s very strong and can be used in a wide variety of industrial and even artistic/design applications. This type of steel alloy, which also contains cobalt and nickel, is particularly hard to break while at the same time having very high elastic properties. It is used almost exclusively for industrial applications.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Inconel

Inconel is a superalloy produced by a company called Special Metals Corporation. It is composed primarily of nickel and chrome and has a high-temperature resistance. For that reason, it’s used mainly for applications in oil, chemical and aerospace industries (i.e. airplane black-boxes).

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Aluminum

Due to its lightness and versatility, aluminum is a popular metal for 3D printing applications. It is used primarily in a variety of aluminum-based alloys.

Generally speaking, aluminum is a lightweight and robust material with exceptional thermal properties. It’s typically printed with DMLS technology, matching the quality of machined parts. Aluminum is widely used in several industries, including biomedical, automotive, and aerospace.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Cobalt Chrome

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Cobalt Chrome

This metal alloy has a very high specific strength. (That’s strength divided by density, which indicates the force required per unit area). It’s most commonly used to produce turbines, dental implants, and orthopedic implants — all areas where metal 3D printing is becoming the preferred manufacturing method.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Copper and Bronze

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Copper and Bronze

A few exceptions aside, copper and bronze are mostly used in lost wax casting processes and not so much in DMLS. That’s because they’re not ideal for industrial applications and are more commonly used in arts and crafts. ColorFabb offers both metals as a base for its special metal 3D printer filaments.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide


Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Iron

Iron — even magnetic iron — is also exclusively 3D printed as an additive to PLA-based metal filaments, such as the ones produced by ProtoPasta.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Gold, Silver and Other Precious Metals

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Gold, Silver and Other Precious Metals

Most powder bed fusion companies can 3D print with precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum. The challenge here – along with maintaining the material’s aesthetic properties – is to make sure that the precious powder management is optimized.

Precious metals are 3D printed both for jewelry, medical, and electronics applications. As expected, these particular materials are among the most expensive to 3D print.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Composite Materials

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Composite Materials

Aside from the pure metal materials mentioned above, it’s also possible to 3D print with metal-based composite materials. One of the most popular industrial-grade 3D printing metal composites is Nylon 12 filled with aluminum.

For instance, Stratasys has developed an aluminum filled Nylon 12 material that offers mechanical advantages and a metallic appearance. By fusing aluminum into a thermoplastic material, users can obtain parts that are stronger, stiffer, and highly resistant to wear and tear.

For metal alloys that are either difficult or impossible to 3D print with, there are metal matrix composite (MMC) techniques that enable material scientist to add a ceramic or polymer powder to make the material printable.

This is a process used by the likes of Desktop Metal, which has created a metal 3D printing system that utilizes a composite material that contains both metal and polymer. Once the part is print, it goes into a furnace, and the polymer material is sintered away, leaving behind a metal part.

While printing with metal powders requires an expensive and powerful industrial-grade machine, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get some metal out of your desktop FDM 3D printer. In the following section, we’ll look at metal composite filaments that you can print at home!

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Metal 3D Printing Filament

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Metal 3D Printing Filament

How can you 3D print metal at home? As extremely high temperatures are needed for metal 3D printing, so you can’t use a regular FDM 3D printer.

Simply put, there’s no way you’re going to 3D print pure metal at home in the very near future. Dedicated metal 3D printers for home probably won’t be around until at least 2020. However, as nanotechnology evolves, we might see substantial growth in new applications. Like conductive 3D printable silver that can be ink-jetted using a system very similar to the 2D printer, you have at home. Even mixing different materials, like plastics and metals into the same object, will be possible.

Metal 3D Printing Materials for the Home

Even if you can’t 3D print metal objects at home, you can still resort to plastic filament with added metal powders. ColorFabb, ProtoPasta or TreeD Filaments offer composite metal-PLA filaments. These are filaments that contain a significant percentage of metal powders but provide enough plastic to be printed at low temperature (200 to 300 degree Celsius) with just about any 3D printer. At the same time, they contain enough metal to have the look, feel, and weight of a metallic object. The iron-based filaments even form rust in certain conditions.

In composition, metal 3D printer filament is typically 50 percent metal powder. Meanwhile, Dutch 3D printer filament company Formfutura claims they have ramped up the ratio to 85 percent metal powder and 15 percent PLA. These metal 3D printer filaments are called MetalFil Ancient Bronze and MetalFil Classic Copper. You can even print them at “moderate” temperatures of 190 to 200 degree Celsius.

A spool of metal 3D printing filament - here Formfutura’s "Ancient Bronze" (image: Formfutura)
A spool of metal 3D printer filament – Formfutura’s “Ancient Bronze” (image: Formfutura)

The key facts of metal 3D printer filament

  • Unique metallic finish and appearance
  • Ideal for jewelry, statues, home hardware, or replica artifacts
  • High durability
  • Low flexibility, depending on the structural design
  • Not soluble
  • Not considered food safe
  • General print temperature range is 195°C – 220°C
  • Minimal shrinkage during cooling
  • Heated bed not required
  • Printing difficulty is high, requiring fine-tuning of nozzle temperature, flow rate, and post-processing

Prepare your Home 3D Printer for Metal 3D Printing

Given that metal 3D printing is usually more difficult, you may want to upgrade your 3D printer nozzle, especially if you are using a beginner machine. Metal 3D printer filament tends to wear nozzles quickly. Durable printer hotends (E3D’s V6 Hotend, for example), which are themselves made from metal, are able to withstand high temperatures and can be mounted on most 3D printers. Just be prepared to replace them more often, as metal 3D printer filament can be very abrasive.

Also, you should be aware you’ll probably need a proper finishing process (brushing, sand grinding, greasing, waxing or coating) of your metal 3D printing creation to make it really “shine.” Here are some examples:

The prices of metal 3D printer filament

  • ColorFabb’s Bronzefill, 750 grams: 
  • ColorFabb’s Copperfill, 750 grams:
  • Protopasta’s Polishable Stainless Steel, 500 grams: 
  • Protopasta’s Rustable Magnetic Iron, 500 grams: 

Industrial Metal 3D Printers

Well, industrial-grade metal 3D printers are relatively expensive, mostly ranging from $80K to almost $1M.

So, if your company is looking to acquire an industrial-grade metal 3D printer, be sure to conduct as much research as possible. There is a wide range of metal additive manufacturing systems out there, and each offers its own distinct benefits and disadvantages.

To give you an idea of what’s currently on the market, here’s a variety of metal 3D printers, some of which you can access via 3D printing services.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

EOS M 100

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: EOS M 100

The EOS M 100 3D printer is the German manufacturer’s entry-level metal additive manufacturing system. Utilizing Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology, this machine is equipped with a 200-watt fiber laser to melt and fuse fine metal powder such as aluminum, maraging steel, high-grade steel, titanium, nickel, and cobalt chrome alloys. The small laser spot enables excellent resolution, making it ideal for complex metal parts, such as freeform surfaces, deep slots, or coolant ducts.

The M 100 is optimized to reduce post-processing and cleaning time, which in turn allows for parts to be produced quickly and more effectively. It also has a modular inner design and powder supply bin, which makes operation and maintenance extremely easy.

This is one of the most basic metal 3D printing systems that EOS offers. You can visit the manufacturer’s website to see the rest of its product range.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Desktop Metal

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Desktop Metal

The Massachusetts-based 3D printing startup Desktop Metal was one of the biggest game-changers in the metal 3D printing market. In 2017 the company unveiled two metal 3D printers; the Studio System and Production System. This groundbreaking hardware tandem allowed metal additive manufacturing to be much more affordable and capable of producing parts faster.

The Studio System is a desktop-sized metal 3D printer, with a print size of 330 × 330 × 330 mm, that uses the patented Bound Metal Deposition (BMD) extrusion process. Similar to FDM printing, this metal 3D printer utilizes MIM metal powders that are bound by a polymer mix. Once 3D printing is complete, the objects are placed in Desktop Metal’s furnace at a temperature of up to 1,400 degrees Celsius, melting away the polymer and leaving you with a metal part. The Studio System, along with the furnace and cloud-based software, costs around $120,000.

Learn more: Interview with Desktop Metal: The Metal 3D Printing Hype is Real (And Made of Steel)

The industrial-sized Production System uses a process called single pass jetting. The 3D printer works by depositing metal powder, followed by a binding agent. The machine is equipped with over 32,000 jets that are capable of spraying millions of droplets per second and has a printing size of 330 × 330 × 330 mm. The Production System also uses the furnace for post-processing, and costs around $360,000 (furnace not included).

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Additec μPrinter

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Additec μPrinter

The Additec μPrinter is an entry-level industrial desktop metal 3D printer by Additec, a manufacturer with headquarters in the US and Germany. It uses a type of DED (Directed Energy Deposition) 3D printing technology to create 3D metal parts. Additec calls it Laser Metal Deposition (LMD).

The Additec μPrinter is one of the world’s most compact metal 3D printer. It is capable of depositing wire and powder feedstock into complex geometries, all while fitting onto a desktop. The ability to process commercial welding wire means that materials are widely available anywhere in the world, and pricing starts below $10 per kg. Processing wire and powder, even at the same time is a first in the industry and means that a single μPrinter can be used for a range of research applications. The μPrinter can also be used for cladding or repair of small components.
Due to the very high process stability, integrated monitoring, and many automated features, and last but not least the relatively low price, the μPrinter is perfect for companies who would like to get started with Metal 3D printing and want a complete solution.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Digital Metal DM P2500

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Digital Metal DM P2500

With the DM P2500 from Digital Metal, a subsidiary of the Swedish metal powder producer Höganäs, they released the world’s first-ever high-precision binder jetting system for small metal objects.

Learn more: Interview With Digital Metal: One Giant Leap For Small Metal 3D Printed Parts

The DM P2500 produces exceptionally small and intricate metal components. With a building volume of 203 x 180 x 69 mm and printing with 42 µm layers at 100 cc/hr, the P2500 allows for a fast, flexible and cost-effective production of metal parts directly from CAD data. Plus it offers an incredible resolution of 35µm and high-precision, providing a high level of detail.
As the non-sintered powder within the print bed serves as support, it is possible to 3D print complex and functional parts,
and to use the entire build volume for many small parts by piling the objects on top of each other. Making this printer ideal for both serial production and end-use parts customization.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

MarkforgedMetal X

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: MarkforgedMetal X

Markforged is another 3D printing company that is focusing on making this once inaccessible technology more open to the masses. The Metal X comes in at $99,500, a low-cost entry point in comparison to the $500,000+ industrial DMLS/SLM machines.

Markforged Metal X’s are shipped out alongside their post-processing stations the Sinter-1 (furnace) and Wash-1 (debinder). These additional extras are needed to complete the full process of part production using Markforged’s Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing (ADAM). Similar to Desktop Metal’s Studio System, this metal 3D printer works by printing metal powder that is bound in a plastic matrix. The heating module allows the removal of the plastic and the sintering of the metal powder into a strong and dense part that is 97% metal. The maximum build size is 300 × 220 × 180 mm and its default metal 3D printing material is stainless steel. Other compatible materials also include tooling steel, Titanium, Inconel, copper, and aluminum.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

3D Systems ProX DMP 300

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: 3D Systems ProX DMP 300

The ProX DMP 300 from 3D Systems is another popular metal 3D printing system, using Direct Metal Printing (DMP) technology, also called laser sintering. It has a sizable build volume of 250 x 250 x 330 mm and is designed to increase production speed and reduce material waste. Convenience is key with this 3D printer, as it offers automated material loading and recycling system. It can process over 15 materials such as stainless steel, tool steel, non-ferrous alloys, and superalloys as well as ceramics such as Cermet.

According to 3D Systems, this metal 3D printer can achieve a surface finish quality of up to 5 Ra μm (200 Ra microinches) and can produce parts at 20° angles without supports. As a result, the exceptional surface finish and elimination of support structures lead to a and cost-effective experience.

With an expert team and 3DXpert, 3D Systems’ metal additive manufacturing software, the ProX DMP 300 is the focal point of an expansive 3D printing ecosystem.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Sciaky EBAM 300

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Sciaky EBAM 300

If you had to 3D print large metal structures, your best metal 3D printer choice would be Sciaky’s EBAM series. It’s capable of offering just about any size of machine built on demand. These metal 3D printers are mainly used by the US aerospace and defense industries.

The Sciaky EBAM industrial 3D printers use a 3D printing technology called Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM). This 3D printing metal technology is capable of huge build volumes and high-speed deposition rates ranging from 3-7 kg of metal per hour, enabling the printer to produce a 10-foot-long titanium aircraft structure in about 48 hours. In general, forgings that used to take 6-12 months to complete can be completed in 2 days with this metal 3D printer.

The Sciaky EBAM 300 Series is capable of 3D printing a variety of metals. Such as Titanium, Inconel, Stainless Steels, Aluminum, Copper, Nickel, and many more.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Fabrisonic SonicLayer 4000

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Fabrisonic SonicLayer 4000

Another way to 3D print large metal parts is with Fabrisonic’s Ultrasound Additive Manufacturing Technology (UAM) – using ultrasonic sounds to merge layers of metal foil. The Fabrisonic SonicLayer 4000 is a three-axis CNC mill, which has an added welding head for additive manufacturing. Making the SonicLayer a hybrid additive/subtractive manufacturing system.

It has a maximum build size of 1016 × 610 × 610 mm, and his big brother the SonicLayer 7200 offers an even bigger platform with 1829 × 1829 × 915 mm.

Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide

Concept Laser XLine 2000R

Image of Metal 3D Printer Buyer's Guide: Concept Laser XLine 2000R

The largest powder metal 3D printer currently on the market is Concept Laser’s XLine 2000R. It has a build volume of 800 x 400 x 500 mm and is as large as a single story house. It is a high-performance production machine with 2 x 1,000-watt lasers, two build modules and
a rotating mechanism for reciprocal use, allowing for maximum productivity. The metal printer uses Concept Laser’s LaserCUSING (a type of selective laser melting) technology and can 3D print objects alloys of steel, aluminum, nickel, titanium, precious metal, and even some pure materials such as titanium and high-end steel.

The German company is one of the primary 3D printer suppliers of huge aerospace companies such as Airbus.

License: The text of "2019 Metal 3D Printer Buyer’s Guide" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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