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Metal Powder Printing

3D printers that work with metal powders are a growing part of the additive manufacturing scene. While they’re not as common as their FFF-based cousins, these machines are a powerful tool for engineers looking to create custom parts with high strength and durability.

The most commonly used 3D printing systems use either loose or bound metal powders that are melted together or fused at the molecular level using laser energy. They are the most versatile of all 3D printing technologies, working with just about any industrially significant metal, including stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, copper, cobalt and nickel alloys.

Several metal-based powder printing processes exist, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses: SLM (solid layer molding) is the most widely used technique, but it requires a lot of energy and can’t be used for materials that require a higher melting point. DMLS is a similar process, but it’s more energy-efficient since it only heats the powder particles to the point where they fuse together.

Bound Powder Extrusion

BPE (or “bonded powder extrusion”) is a newer technology that produces metal-based 3D parts by squirting a waxy polymer into a powder bed. The polymer binds the powders into a strong, “green” material that’s easy to handle and is safer than loose metal powder.

Binder jet fusion

A recent study showed that a mixture of wood powder fractions between 10 and 50% with polymer binders results in a stronger 3D printed object than those made with PLA-based filaments. This method is also more eco-friendly and sustainable because it uses renewable raw materials, avoiding the extraction of fossil fuels.