10 Metal 3D Printing Companies You Should Know

From major suppliers to startups, here are 10 companies poised to make big waves in the brave new world of metal 3D printing.
  • Metal 3D printing was one of the biggest trends to come out of the 2018 Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show. Multiple conference sessions focuses on the ins and outs as well as the challenges of 3D printing with metal. Jeff Schipper, director of special operations at rapid prototyping company Proto Labs, has attributed the rise of processes like direct metal laser sintering to their ability to compete directly with traditional processes like CNC machining and casting both in terms of quality of the end product but also in emerging applications such as lightweighting.

    A number of well-known companies in the 3D printing space, as well as a handful of startups, are already focusing on building and supplying metal 3D printers. While many approach metal 3D printing with different materials and printing methods, the aim is to enable users at all levels – from large scale factories down to individual engineers and designers working in office spaces – to work with metal in additive manufacturing.

    Here's a list of 10 of the most exciting companies in metal 3D printing space today.

    Click "Next" above to start the slideshow.

  • 3DEO

    California-based 3DEO manufacturers 3D-printed metal parts using its own proprietary printers. With a heavy focus on reducing the per-part cost of metal 3D printing, the company claims its patent-pending Intelligent Layering technology is able to fabricate parts that meet quality MPIF Standard 35 and reduce the final cost of printing a part by as much as 80 percent. The company primarily works with stainless steel powder but is currently developing technology to print with other metals as well including Inconel, nickel alloy, cobalt chrome, titanium, soft magnetic alloys, Tungsten heavy alloy, and bronze, copper, and brass.

    [image source: 3DEO] 

  • 3D Systems

    3D Systems manufactures a series of Direct Metal Printing (DMP) 3D printers, the ProX DMP line, that range from entry level to a full-on factory solution. The company's entry-level metal printer, the ProX DMP 100 (shown), features a build volume of 100 x 100 x 100 mm (3.94 x 3.94 x 3.94 in) along with manual material loading and an optional, atmospheric controlled, external recycling station. The system supports 17-4PH stainless steel and cobalt chromium (CoCr). The printer also features a proprietary powder deposition system that allows builds down to 20-degree angles without supports.

    At the other end of the spectrum, 3D Systems' DMP 8500 Factory Solution offers an array of function-specific modules to factory floors, each with an integrated Removable Print Module (RPM) which is vacuum sealable for a controlled print environment and engineered to move between printer and powder modules for a continuous production workflow. The DMP 8500 also features Powder Management Modules (PMMs) that de-powder parts on build platforms and automatically recycle unused powder materials to prepare the RPM for the next build. According to the company, utilizing these modules can facilitate metal parts printing 24/7.

    [image source: 3D Systems]

  • Airwolf 3D

    Based in Orange County, Calif., Airwolf 3D has recently unveiled the latest in its line of desktop 3D printers, the EVO Additive Manufacturing Center, which is capable of working with metal along with over 30 other materials including carbon fiber-reinforced nylon, polycarbonate, and HydroFill Water-Soluble Support.

    The printer features a proprietary heating technology, called Tri-Heat, that warms the chamber and dries the filament within it. It also features dual high-flow AX2 extrusion heads aimed and speeding up printing large parts with a 0.4lb/hour maximum material deposition rate. The EVO's planetary extruder assembly is a cartridge-style component that achieves increased torque capacity for faster extrusion speeds while an unbreakable three-bolt-reinforced hot end precisely distributes the printing materials. In essence, Airwolf 3D has combined metal injection molding to FDM 3D printing.

    Airwolf 3D's co-founder and CEO Erick Wolf recently gave a talk at the 2018 Pacific Design & Manufacturing Show, "Metal 3D Printing for the Masses," where he discusses methods and challenges in metal 3D printing as well as more of Airwolf 3D's metal printing technology.

    [image source: Airwolf 3D]

  • Arcam

    Arcam is a Swedish company that offers a portfolio of electron beam melting (EBM) machines for 3D printing metal parts and components. The EBM process melts metal powder with an electron beam to build parts layer by layer. The process happens in vacuum and at high temperature, which Arcam says results in stress relieved components with material properties better than cast and comparable to wrought material.

    The company offers a series of printers for industry-specific needs ranging from medical implants to aerospace. The Arcam Q10 Plus and Q20 Plus are targeted at orthopedic implant and aerospace component manufacturing respectively. The Arcam A2X (shown), the company's high-end metal printer, is targeted at producing function aerospace parts as well as conducting materials research at the university level. The A2X is designed to process titanium alloys as well as materials that require elevated process temperatures and can deliver a beam power of up to 3000 watts while maintaining a scan speed that allows melting at multiple points simultaneously. The vacuum system maintains a vacuum level of 1x10-5 mBar or better throughout the entire build cycle. Arcam's printers are able to work with titanium Ti6Al4V, titanium Ti6Al4V ELI, titanium grade 2, cobalt chrome, ASTM F75, and nickel alloy 718.

    [image source: Arcam]  

  • Desktop Metal

    Desktop Metal is a 3D printing startup aiming at creating metal 3D printing systems not only for mass production but also for office environments. The company says its Studio System desktop metal printer is targeted specifically at engineers and designers. The Studio System is a three-part solution aimed at allowing engineers to rapid prototype metal parts without the need for outsourcing. According to the company, the system can print parts that can be sintered to 96-99% density, with a better than 99% dimensional accuracy.

    The system's printer, rather than using a laser to melt metal powder, extrudes bound metal rods in a process similar to how a fused filament fabrication (FDM) printer works. The company says this method offers more safety and enables new features such as the use of closed-cell infill for lightweight strength. The system also consists of a debinder that prepares green parts for sintering by dissolving primary binder.

    Again, taking cues from FDM printing, the system shapes a “green” part layer-by-layer by heating and extruding specially formulated bound metal rod, that can then be sanded by hand easily for light finishing. Finally, the system's furnace, according to the company, is able to deliver industrial-strength sintering in an office-friendly package. The Studio System handles a number of core alloys including 17-4PH stainless steel, AISI 4140 steel, 316 L stainless steel, copper, Inconel 625, and H13 tool steel.

    [image source: Desktop Metal]  

  • EOS

    German company EOS is a supplier of industrial-grade metal 3D printers. Similar to the Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) printers offered by Stratasys, the company's flagship metal printer, the EOS M 290 (shown) has a build volume of 250 x 250 x 325 mm and utilizes a 400-watt fiber laser for printing parts from powered metal. The company offers a range of metal printers including an entry-level offering, the EOS M 100.

    While the EOS M 100 corresponds to the EOS M 290 in terms of print quality, according to EOS, the entry-level printer features a lower-power 200-watt fiber laser. The printers also feature a suite of monitoring software, EOSTATE for conducting real-time quality assurance of the overall system, laser, powder bed, melt pool, and exposure optical tomography. The company also offers a library of materials for its metal printers including aluminum, cobalt chrome, maraging steel, nickel alloy, stainless steel, and titanium.

    [image source: EOS]  

  • Markforged

    The offerings from Las Vegas-based 3D printer manufacturer Markforged include a newly released line of metal 3D printers called the Metal X. The Metal X uses a new printing method Markforged calls Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing (ADAM) that prints metal parts layer-by-layer using a metal powder contained in a plastic binder. After printing, the plastic binders are removed and the part can be sintered into customary engineering metals. According to Markforged, this process, which sinters the entire part at once, allows metal crystals to grow through the bonded layers, which effectively eliminates the layer-to-layer strength reduction created by other 3D printing processes.

    Markforged claims its ADAM-based printers can print geometries beyond the capabilities of other metal 3D printing methods. The Metal X printer has a build volume of 250 x 220 x 200mm and offers in-process laser inspection, an integrated metal-material handling system, and build camera that can be remotely accessed via the cloud. The printer prints 17-4 and 30 stainless steels. Markforged also currently offers a metals beta test program to its customers that extends the Metal X's material options to include tool steel (A-2, D-2, M-2), aluminum (6061, 7075), and titanium (6AL 4V).

    [image source: Markforged]  

  • Renishaw

    UK-based Renishaw manufactures 3D printing systems that use metal powder bed fusion technology to build components. The company's RenAM 500M printer (shown) is a laser powder bed fusion additive manufacturing system targeted directly at metal printing applications on the factory floor. It has a build volume of 250 × 250 × 350 mm and features automated powder and waste handling systems. The company also supplies a range of metal powders for 3D printing including, tfitanium (Ti6Al4V) aluminum alloy (AlSi10Mg), cobalt chromium (CoCr), stainless steel (316L), and nickel alloys.

    The company is also working as part of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International on developing parameters and standards for new metal alloy powders for additive manufacturing.

    [image source: Renishaw]

  • Sciaky

    Chicago-based Sciaky's Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) 300 series of printers produces what the company says are the world's largest 3D-printed metal parts and prototypes, with a maximum work envelope of 19 x 4 x 4 x 8 feet (or 96-inches in diameter for round parts).

    The EBAM 300 has a deposition rate of 7 - 20 pounds-per-hour. According to the company, the printer was able to produce a 10-foot-long titanium aircraft structure in 48 hours.

    EBAM works by placing metal wire feedstock into a vacuum and heating it with an electron beam. According to Sciaky, EBAM offers a high level of precision and control over part geometries as well as significant reductions in material waste. Sciaky has targeted the EBAM 300 primarily at large-scale printing in aerospace, defense, energy, and metals industries, where it can be used to create, augment, and repair end-use devices. The EBAM 300 works with a range of alloys including titanium, tantalum, Inconel, and niobium.

    [image source: Sciaky]

  • Stratasys

    Stratasys has been a big name in additive manufacturing for some time now and has recently added metal printing capabilities to its portfolio. The company now offers Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), a direct metal laser melting (DMLM) or laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) technology that the company says can accurately create parts with complex geometries that conventional manufacturing methods, such as CNC machining, cannot. Stratasys also claims that DMLS parts are stronger and more dense than investment casted metal parts.

    DMLS uses a high-wattage laser to micro-weld powdered metals and alloys to form fully functional metal components. Right now DMLS works with powered aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and alloys such as monel K500 and inconel 718. The company says DMLS metal 3D printing is ideal for printing complex oil and gas components, custom medical guides, part-consolidated aerospace parts, and tough functional prototypes.

    [image source: Stratasys]  

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Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, and robotics.

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