How Much Does a Metal 3D Printer Cost?
Basics of a Metal 3D Printer
Metal 3D printing is also known as direct metal laser sintering. It makes use of a laser beam which melts up to 60 microns of the layer of the metal powder on top of one another. The powdered metal is then spread across an entire platform and selectively melted. This process is almost similar to the polymer-based 3D printer that uses powdered bed fusions.
The basic difference between SLM and DMLS
In order to completely understand metal 3D printing, it is important to first know two important terms. The first is SLM which stands for selective laser melting and the second is DMLS which stands for direct metal laser sintering. Both of these metal additive processes belong to the powder bed fusion family of 3D printing.
Both of these technologies are a lot similar since both use a laser to scan and then selectively melt the metal particles to bond them together and then build a part layer-by-layer. However, the difference between these two processes is in the basic particle bonding process. SLM uses metal powders whereas the DMLS uses powder composed of materials with variable melting points.
Thus it can be concluded that SLM produces parts from a single metal whereas DMLS produces parts from alloys. Both of these are used in industrial applications and form a part of the metal 3D printing process.
The mechanism behind the working of a Metal 3D Printer
Now that you know the basic fabrication of both SLM and DMLS you can easily understand the method by which it works.
- The build chamber is first filled with an inert gas in order to minimise the level of oxidation of the metal powder. Once it has been filled with an inert gas it is now heated to an optimal temperature
- The next step is to spread a thin layer of metal powder over the platform. Now a high power laser scans the cross-section of the component and then melts the metal particles together to create a layer. Slowly the entire area of the model is scanned thus creating a completely solid part.
- After the scanning process is complete the build platform is moved downwards by the thickness of one layer. A recoater is used to spread another layer of metal powder and the process is repeated continuously until the entire part is complete.
Once this entire process is completed the parts are completely encapsulated in a metal powder. However, in metal 3D printing, the support is manufactured by using the same material as the part. After this is done the bin is allowed to cool down to room temperature and the excess powder is removed manually. Once this is done the parts which have been printed are treated with heat while are still attached to the platform. This is done to relieve any residual stress on the part. The last and final step is to detach the component from the build played by cutting and it is ready for use for further processing.
What are the Metals Which Can be Used for 3D Printing?
Initially, only a few metals and alloys were used for metal 3D printing. However, with recent advancement in science and technology, a large number of metals and alloys are being Personal used for 3D printing including-
- Precious metals such as gold, platinum or silver
Various Material Formats used for 3D Metal Printing
Metal 3D printing is done by the use of several types of materials which can be found in different formats catering to different types of printing methods. The three most common formats which are used for 3D metal printing are-
What is the Cost of Metal 3D Printer?
Now that you know everything about how a 3D metal printer works you can easily understand that the machine is quite complex and requires a lot of functions. Naturally, all-metal 3D printers are quite expensive.
In general, the prices for the industrial 3D printer can range from around 50,000 USD to 1 million USD. Although this is a very wide range of price the final amount is completely dependent on the size of the machine and its performance. Thus if you want to get an estimate of the cost of a metal 3D printer it is advisable to first determine the size of the machine that you want to buy along with the functions that you intend to use.
In addition to the base price of the 3D metal printer, There are several additional cost as well. It includes the materials which are required for metal 3D printing which can cost you a few thousand USD per kg along with several other additional costs.
Buying a 3D metal printer is quite expensive, this it is important to find out everything about the machine before making the final purchase.