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How to 3D print with metal


SandervG
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Posted · How to 3D print with metal

 

3D printing with metal is fascinating and has an appeal to many people. It can produce impressive results and handle some applications that are just out of reach for the usual (reinforced) plastics that we usually use. So how could you go about it?

 

3D printing is a broad term, well beyond FFF we're all familiar with. And many technologies can process metals (often with a hefty price tag) Below we briefly describe the most commonly used technologies:

 

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
DMLS uses a laser to melt and fuse metal powder. This is called sintering. It uses alloys (rather than a single type of metal), which are made up of metals with different melting points. They fuse together as the temperature rises. 

 

Bound Metal Disposition (BMD)
BMD extrudes, similar as FFF. It requires metal bound in rods of polymer or sacrificial wax rather than powder. 

 

Selective Laser Melting (SLM).
Much like DMLS, SLM also uses a laser. But in contrary to DMLS, SLM only requires a single metal instead of alloy. 

 

Others
There is also Electron Beam Melting (EBM) and Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM) but they’re less commonly used. 

 

And although not 3D printing, there are also other means of manufacturing that are commonly used to process metals. 

 

Investment casting. 
Investment casting uses a mold (which can be 3D printed), in which the molten metal is poured. Investment casting allows for a good level of detail and is quite popular. As an example, a good success story that does investment casting is Sylatech

 

CNC machining.
The technologies above are quite costly, some even out of reach of most SMEs. CNC is much more affordable than some of the technologies mentioned above and can also process metals. It is not Additive manufacturing, instead it is subtractive. While it is more affordable, it also has some limitations to being less effective for parts that require geometric complexity.

 

Now we wouldn’t be writing this if we also didn’t have something to contribute to this topic. But it may not be for everyone, your hardware needs to be up to the task! 

 

Hardware requirements. 

  • Build-plate: You need a heated bed which can reach between 45ºC and 60ºC. An enclosure is not necessary. 
  • Build-plate surface: The surface may require tape (oh hello old friend), PEI and a glue stick. 
  • Extruder: A CC Core is required, and temperatures between 190ºC and 220ºC. 
  • Fan: A cooling fan is a necessity. 

 

So, which materials do we have in the marketplace? 

 

BASF Ultrafuse 316L
Talking about metal 3D printing, there is only one real champion in our marketplace. And that is BASF Ultrafuse 316L. BASF Ultrafuse 316L is a metal-polymer composite, containing 80% stainless steel and 20% polymer. Ultrafuse 316L has the following properties:
•    Produces stainless-steel type 316L parts
•    Tensile strength of 561 MPa
•    Yield strength of 251 MPa
•    Vickers hardness of 128 HV10
•    Elongation at break of 53%
 After your print is completed on your Ultimaker it needs to be post processed, meaning debinding and sintering. 

 

image.thumb.png.435cea1415f8c55d5e6d7bb614f999ff.png

 

There are also materials in our marketplace which are not metals but have some similar properties in case you need just low-friction or high tensile strength:

 

  • DSM Arnitel ID 2060 HT and Clariant PA6/66GF 20 FR. Both filaments are thermoplastic and able to withstand very high temperatures, just like a metal. They also offer good wear resistance
     
  • Arkema FluorX and DuPont Zytel 3D12G30FL BK309. These materials make excellent substitutes for stainless steel, as they offer a high level of corrosion resistance. Chemicals such as solvents, automotive fluids, and cleaning agents don’t result in any deterioration
     
  • Igus Iglidur 180. This filament is self-lubricating, which makes it highly resistant to wear and tear. It’s suitable for creating parts that are traditionally metal, such as bearings, toothed wheels, piston rings, and gears
     
  • XSTRAND GF30-PA6. This filament contains 30% glass fiber, which gives it good chemical resistance, high tensile strength, and a good operational temperature. It is well-suited for printing jigs and fixtures
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    • 1 month later...
    Posted · How to 3D print with metal

    I believe heat and gas/chemicals are used to dissolve all the unwanted material. This requires additional equipment yes, quite expensive. There are companies that provide this as a service though if you are interested. 

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    • 1 year later...
    Posted · How to 3D print with metal

    Any one already tried printing with this Metal? 

    We are really curious about it, but are wondering how the tolerances will be be after the postprocessing.

    and are there any limitations compared to "plastic" printing ?

     

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    Posted · How to 3D print with metal

    Hi @dsp, you should give it a try and let us know your experiences on the process and the results. But before you try I can already give you some more information to manage your expectations; 

    One of the major limitations compared to plastic 3D printing is that for metal the maximum volume of a 3D printed part can not exceed 100x100x100mm. This has to do with the post processing steps and the fragility of the brown part. With a larger print the structural stability and correct compensation for shrinkage can not be guaranteed . 

     

    With the developments in Cura 5(.1) we can guarantee tolerances on a sintered part below 0.4mm throughout the maximum volume of 100x100x100mm. Even more technical; internal porosity has been calculated to be between 3 and 4% (vs total volume). The grade of steel you can print with, that we will provide, is confirmed to be 17-4PH (which stands for 17% Chromium, 4% Nickel, and below 0.07% Carbon-Martensitic grade.) 

     

    If you have any specific questions about your application and the use of metal for it feel free to reach out! Have a great day and looking forward hearing from you,

     

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    Posted · How to 3D print with metal

    Thanks for the extra information Sander,

     

    Sadly I don't control the budget, but we will see what we can get, is the tolerance the same with 316L as with the 17-4Ph.

    the 100x100x100mm will limit the type of parts we can do with it but who knows.

     

    Next to the CC .6 core and filament, will we need other things to be able to print with this?

     

    I must say the BASF guideline helps in understanding the limitations to this way of metal printing.

     

    BASF_Ultrafuse_316L_User_Guidelines.pdf

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    Posted · How to 3D print with metal

    Hi @dsp, thank you bringing that up. While some of the biggest components (Metal filament and Cura 5) are already available, some key pieces are still missing that could make the whole journey a lot easier (as you are used from Ultimaker.)  I don't know if you watched our Showcase in April? If so you may remember that near the end we said we're working on such a metal solution, and while I am probably not allowed to say when it will launch exactly, I can say it is soon (not tomorrow-soon though!). 

     

    You indeed need print cores, proper adhesive and depending on what you wish to print you might need support material. And don't forget, you may know it already if you read up on the subject and I also see it in the guidelines you shared, your 3D printed part also requires debinding and sintering!

     

    Link to the metal segment of the Showcase in April: 

     

     

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    Posted · How to 3D print with metal

    Does this work on the Ultimaker 3 and with the 3dsolex nozzle? Also, does Cura 5.1 automatically change the model when the filament is selected to the BASF filament or is there a setting that I'm missing?

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    Posted · How to 3D print with metal
    14 hours ago, 3dprntz said:

    Does this work on the Ultimaker 3 and with the 3dsolex nozzle?

    The nozzle is not the only factor in wear resistance. The UM3 feeder (on the back of the printer) is not designed to be used with abrasive materials. I don't know by heart if there is a profile for the BASF material on the UM3. If there isn't, the reason is probably that UM thinks that the UM3 is not abrasion-resistant enough.

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    Posted · How to 3D print with metal
    1 hour ago, ahoeben said:

    The nozzle is not the only factor in wear resistance. The UM3 feeder (on the back of the printer) is not designed to be used with abrasive materials. I don't know by heart if there is a profile for the BASF material on the UM3. If there isn't, the reason is probably that UM thinks that the UM3 is not abrasion-resistant enough.

    The feeder issue can be solved by "upgrading" to the S5-feeder (first version), which also includes the flow sensor.

    I don't know how the activation of the "abrasive resistance feature" in the firmware works for acceptance of the CC cores or material profiles, but there must be a reason for this firmware entry...

    Perhaps someone from Ultimaker (possibly @SandervG or @CarloK) could bring some light into the darkness?

    Regards

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    Posted · How to 3D print with metal

    @3dprntz The UM3 printer doesn't support printing the new metal filaments. The UM3 feeder would wear out too fast with these abrasive filaments. Since many of the S5 components are backwards compatible with the UM3, Ultimaker could consider to provide an upgrade kit (2x S5 feeder v1, new DD-type print core, enabling feature in the firmware), but I doubt this will ever happen. Printing metal parts is a new feature and we will first want to see how this takes off on the S5.

     

    Considering the high price of the metal filaments (about €100/kg ex. VAT) and the extra required sintering service (€75), this is not something for the hobby market. The UM3 was last produced in early 2020. Power printer users will rather buy a new printer, than upgrading an old one. Providing an upgrade kit for a 3 year old printer will cost a lot of money to design, and only tinkerers will buy it. The target market for the upgrade kit would be too small to warrant the investment.

     

    Tweaking the UM3 is possible of course, and fun to do, but will not be officially supported by Ultimaker. An unofficial guide for installing the S5 feeder on the UM3 can be found on this forum. Enabling the DD-cores is also do-able by modifying the material file.

     

    On 7/22/2022 at 8:38 PM, 3dprntz said:

    ... and with the 3dsolex nozzle?

    At Ultimaker we don't know about the cores from other brands, you'd have to ask there.

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