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Everything You Need to Know: Metal 3D Printers

2024.06.06  318 clicks

Written by Abigail    June 6, 2024


Metal 3D Printer Cost


Investing in a metal 3D printer is a decision that can change your manufacturing process significantly. Understanding the metal 3D printer cost is crucial as it varies widely based on several factors.


The initial cost of metal 3D printers can range from $50,000 for entry-level systems to over $1 million for high-end industrial-grade printers. This price can be influenced by the printer’s build volume, laser power, precision, and automation features.


Beyond the purchase price, the total cost per piece for 3D printing metal typically ranges from $15 to $800, including the size and complexity of the model, finishing requirements, and the chosen printing technology.


It’s essential to consider hidden expenses such as machine maintenance, material costs, and the labor for post-processing. Machine time and finishing time are significant cost drivers.


For those not ready to commit to purchasing a machine, on-demand metal 3D printing services offer a cost-effective alternative. These services allow you to pay for only what you need, when you need it, without the overhead of owning and maintaining a printer.


Materialise SLM Printed Inconel Sparrow


Image Source: Materialise


Types of Metal 3D Printers


Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)


Powder Bed Fusion printers, including Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM), and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), use a laser or electron beam to melt and fuse metal powder layer by layer.


Key Features of Powder Bed Fusion Metal 3D Printers:

Precision: Capable of producing parts with complex geometries and fine details.

Material Range: Compatible with a variety of metal powders.

Surface Finish: Parts often have a smooth finish, reducing the need for post-processing.


Directed Energy Deposition (DED)


DED printers utilize a focused energy source, such as a laser or electron beam, to fuse materials as they are deposited. DED can work with both powder and wire feedstock.


Key features of Directed Energy Deposition Metal 3D Printers:

Repair and Additive Manufacturing: Ideal for repairing parts or adding material to existing components.

Material Efficiency: Minimizes waste by depositing material only where needed.


Binder Jetting


Binder Jetting involves depositing a liquid binding agent onto layers of metal powder, which is then sintered to form solid parts.


Key Features of Binder Jetting 3D Printers:

Speed: Faster than PBF due to no need for melting metal during the printing process.

Cost-Effectiveness: Generally lower cost per part, especially for large runs.


Material Extrusion


Material extrusion includes printers that extrude metal filament, similar to traditional FFF/FDM 3D printers, but with materials suitable for metal parts.


Key Features of Material Extrusion Metal 3D Printers:

Accessibility: More affordable and user-friendly, making them suitable for smaller businesses and educational purposes.

Versatility: Capable of printing with various metal-infused filaments.


Each type of metal 3D printer has its unique advantages and is suitable for different applications, from prototyping to full-scale production. When considering a metal 3D printer, it’s essential to match the printer’s capabilities with your specific needs to ensure the best ROI.


Top Metal 3D Printers


1. Desktop Metal Studio System™ 2


The Desktop Metal Studio System™ 2 is a standout choice for in-house metal part production, offering a streamlined two-step workflow of printing and sintering that eliminates the need for solvent debinding. Designed for safety and accessibility in an office environment, it requires no special facilities or dedicated operators. With its Bound Metal Deposition technology, the system produces high-quality parts suitable for a variety of industries, from manufacturing to consumer electronics. The Studio System™ 2 features a build volume of 300 x 200 x 200 mm, operates at sintering temperatures up to 1400°C, and is complemented by the user-friendly Fabricate software, which automates the transition from printing to sintering, ensuring a seamless process for users of all experience levels.


Desktop Metal Studio System™ 2


Image Source: Desktop Metal


2. Raise3D Forge1 3D Printer


The Raise3D Forge1 3D Printer is a versatile addition to the metal additive manufacturing market, offering a cost-effective solution for producing metal parts. Utilizing Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technology, the Forge1 is designed for reliability and ease of use, making it suitable for both production and rapid prototyping of small-batch metal parts. It boasts a generous build volume of 300 × 300 × 300 mm and features such as auto bed leveling and a glass build plate for enhanced printing performance. Developed in collaboration with BASF, the Forge1 uses Ultrafuse® 316L and Ultrafuse® 17-4 metal filaments, ensuring high-strength green parts that are compatible with the Metal Injection Molding (MIM) industry’s catalytic debinding technology.


Raise3D Forge1 3D Printer


Image Source: Raise3D


3. Markforged Metal X™ System


The Markforged Metal X System is a comprehensive solution for metal 3D printing, designed to deliver industrial-grade parts with remarkable precision and reliability. It’s an accessible option for those looking to produce custom metal parts affordably. The system’s layer resolution ranges from 50 to 125 micrometers, allowing for clear, detailed parts. The Metal X System includes the Wash-1 and Sinter-1 and 2, streamlining the post-processing and increasing the print speed. Since its launch in January 2017, the Metal X has been recognized for maintaining dimensional accuracy, even in intricate parts, making it a valuable asset for manufacturers who require high-quality parts and functional prototypes.


Markforged Metal X™ System


Image Source: Markforged


4. Meltio M600


The Meltio M600 is an industrial metal 3D printer that stands out for its ability to expand manufacturing capabilities with its blue laser technology, large build volume, and fully inert chamber, ensuring optimal material properties. It’s designed for ease of use with improved process control, advanced sensors, and live monitoring, which allows for consistent part production around the clock. The M600 boasts a built-in 3-axis probing system and work-holding solutions, making it a robust addition to manufacturing operations. Its autonomous nature requires minimal operator interaction, and common tasks like manual laser alignment have been eliminated, increasing reliability and efficiency. The M600 is compatible with a wide range of materials and is particularly noted for its energy-efficient process, thanks to the blue laser diodes.


Meltio M600


Image Source: Meltio


5. Xact Metal XM200G


The Xact Metal XM200G is an industrial metal 3D printer that offers performance printing at an affordable price, making it an attractive option for businesses looking to adopt metal additive manufacturing. It builds on the design of the XM200C. It features a high-performance galvanometer system to move the laser beam over the powder bed, allowing for faster printing times and the capability to support multiple lasers. The XM200G is highly configurable to match different applications and uses Laser beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) technology to produce parts in a variety of metals, including bronze, aluminum, cobalt chrome, copper, Inconel, steel, and titanium. With a build volume of 150 × 150 × 150 mm, it’s designed to meet the needs of industries requiring precise, high-quality metal parts.


Xact Metal XM200G


Image Source: Xact Metal


6. SLM®125


The SLM®125 is an industrial-grade metal 3D printer designed for the production of small to medium-sized parts with high precision and surface quality. It utilizes Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology to fuse metallic powders layer by layer with a powerful laser beam. The SLM®125 offers a build envelope of 125 mm x 125 mm x 125 mm, making it a flexible machine capable of achieving high productivity, especially in research and development sectors. It’s praised for its ability to produce complex parts and functional prototypes with a closed-loop powder handling unit that ensures material efficiency and safety. Despite its smaller build volume compared to some competitors, the SLM®125 is recognized for its high-quality output and good print speed, making it a valuable asset for precision manufacturing.


SLM Solutions SLM®125


Image Source: SLM Solutions


7. 3D Systems DMP Flex 100


The 3D Systems DMP Flex 100 is a precision metal 3D printer known for its exceptional surface finish and resolution, ideal for manufacturing small, complex parts. It boasts a build volume of 100 x 100 x 90 mm and utilizes a 100W laser to sinter fine metal powders, achieving surface quality of up to 5 Ra μm. The printer’s proprietary powder deposition system allows for building angles down to 20° without supports, which, along with its patented layer compacting technology, enables the creation of intricate details and the thinnest wall thicknesses. The DMP Flex 100 is versatile, processing a broad spectrum of materials, including various grades of titanium and stainless steel, and comes with 3DXpert software to streamline the printing process.


3D Systems DMP Flex 100


Image Source: 3D Systems


8. HP Metal Jet S100 Solution


The HP Metal Jet S100 Solution is a professional metal 3D printing system designed for mass production of high-quality metal parts. It’s engineered to provide industrial-grade output with operational efficiency and maximum uptime, suitable for 24/7 manufacturing conditions. The Metal Jet S100 is particularly noted for its integrated end-to-end digital system, which includes the HP Digital Production Suite for supply chain solutions and analytics. With a focus on the total cost of ownership, it aims to reduce the variable cost per part, enabling scalable production. The printer is compatible with stainless steel 316L and 17-4PH, meeting ASTM and MPIF standards, and is ideal for applications across industrial, medical, consumer, and automotive industries.


HP Metal Jet S100 Solution


Image Source: HP


9. Velo3D Sapphire & Sapphire 1MZ


The Velo3D Sapphire & Sapphire 1MZ are advanced metal 3D printers designed for production-scale manufacturing, offering large build volumes and increased throughput. The Sapphire series is known for its ability to print complex geometries without the need for supports, thanks to its unique low-angle printing capabilities. Both models utilize eight 1kW lasers, ensuring faster printing at scale, and feature a proprietary non-contact recoater for improved build quality and reduced risk of part collisions. The Sapphire printers are equipped with nearly 1,000 sensors for real-time quality monitoring and come with integrated software solutions for print preparation and quality assurance. The Sapphire 1MZ, in particular, boasts a build volume of 600 mm Ø by 1000 mm z-height, making it suitable for large, high-performance parts in industries such as aerospace, energy, and defense.


Velo3D Sapphire


Image Source: Velo3D


10. EOS M 290


The EOS M 290 is a robust and reliable industrial 3D printer renowned for its Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology. It’s engineered to produce parts with exceptional detail and surface quality, making it a preferred choice for professionals in various industries. The M 290 boasts a 400-watt fiber laser that fuses fine metal powder, layer by layer, to create objects with intricate geometries and precise dimensions. It offers a build volume of 250 x 250 x 325 mm, and its high beam quality and detail resolution make it ideal for manufacturing complex DMLS components with consistent properties across different jobs and machines. The system is complemented by an intuitive management system, EOSPRINT, which optimizes CAD data for efficient job and workflow management. With a broad portfolio of materials and a comprehensive monitoring suite, the EOS M 290 sets the industry standard for producing qualified metal parts.


EOS M 290


Image Source: EOS


3D Printed Metal Parts Applications


Aerospace and Defense


In sectors where performance and precision are paramount, metal 3D printing is a game-changer. Components for aerospace and defense, such as turbine blades, fuel nozzles, and engine components, are being produced with complex internal structures that enhance performance while reducing weight.


Medical Devices


The medical field benefits from the customization capabilities of metal 3D printing. Implants, surgical tools, and prosthetics can be tailored to individual patient anatomy, improving outcomes and patient comfort.


Automotive Industry


The automotive sector utilizes metal 3D printing for both prototyping and end-use parts. From intricate gearbox components to lightweight structural elements, 3D printing is driving innovation and efficiency in automotive design and manufacturing.


Energy Sector


In energy, particularly in oil and gas, metal 3D printing is used to produce parts that can withstand extreme conditions, including components like drill bits and heat exchangers, which are optimized for performance and durability.


Tooling and Robotics


Metal 3D printing is revolutionizing tooling by allowing for the creation of custom, complex tools that improve manufacturing processes. In robotics, it enables the production of unique end-of-arm tooling that can adapt to various tasks.


Consumer Products


The consumer goods industry is embracing metal 3D printing for its ability to create bespoke jewelry, watches, and luxury items, as well as functional components for electronics that require thermal and electrical conductivity.


Education and Research


Educational institutions and research organizations use metal 3D printing for prototyping and experimenting with new designs and materials, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in various fields of study.


3DSPRO Custom Metal 3D Printing Services


3DSPRO delivers professional custom metal 3D printing services, providing a seamless process from digital design to functional parts with our comprehensive SLM 3D Printing Solutions. We have an experienced technical and general support team that can respond to your project quickly and efficiently. In addition to metal 3D printing services, we offer advanced metal post-processing with 3D Plus™ that ensures the highest quality for finished parts.


We utilize Selective Laser Melting technology to produce parts with complex geometries and exceptional mechanical properties, which is ideal for industries requiring precision and durability, such as aerospace, medical, and automotive sectors.


Besides, 3DSPRO’s 3D Plus™ suite elevates the quality of metal prints through a variety of post-processing services, such as:


Annealing: Heat treatment processes that relieve internal stresses and improve the ductility of metal parts.


Anodizing: An electrochemical technique that enhances corrosion resistance and surface hardness while also providing aesthetic color finishes.


Electroplating: A process that adds a thin layer of metal to the surface, offering increased wear resistance and electrical conductivity.


Electrocoating: Also known as e-coating, this method provides uniform paint coverage and superior adhesion for decorative and protective finishes.


Polishing: Mechanical polishing to achieve a mirror-like surface finish, reducing roughness and improving aesthetics.


Tumbling: Bulk finishing process that removes sharp edges and smoothens surfaces, resulting in consistent and clean parts.


At 3DSPRO, we understand that each project is unique. Our team works closely with clients to identify the best post-processing methods that align with the desired outcome, whether it’s for functional prototypes or end-use products. With a commitment to quality and customer satisfaction, we ensure that every metal part delivered meets the highest standards of excellence. If you’re looking to bring your metal designs to life with precision and quality, 3DSPRO’s custom metal 3D printing services are the solution you need.


3DSPRO Custom Metal 3D Printing


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