Steel is one of the most commonly used metal materials in industry and the first metal material to be used for 3D printing. Currently, 3D printing can process many different types of steel, such as austenitic, duplex, martensitic, precipitation hardening stainless steel, TRIP/TWIP steel, maraging steel, tool steel and ODS steel. Among them, the most commonly used are 316L stainless steel, 304 austenitic stainless steel, 17-4PH and 15-5PH martensitic precipitation hardening stainless steel, 18Ni300 (1.2709) maraging steel and H13 tool steel.
Titanium and titanium alloys are ideal materials for 3D printing. First, 3D printing uses a smaller total amount of material compared to other processes, making it more cost-effective in many applications such as aerospace, medical (orthopaedic implants), luxury cars, racing and professional sports equipment, etc. field. In these areas, the cost of many parts is high (the quantity required is not large), and at this time, based on 3D printing, using more expensive materials to obtain light weight, increase strength and durability becomes a better choice.
Titanium alloys are biocompatible and corrosion-resistant, and can be used as inert biomaterials for human implants. Today, the most commonly used titanium alloy for 3D printing of orthopedic implants is Ti6Al4V (Ti64).
Aluminum alloy is also one of the main metal 3D printing materials at present, and its use is expected to continue to grow. Because aluminum alloys are light in weight, have good mechanical properties, and are inexpensive. However, the mainstream aluminum alloys on the market are basically developed based on the casting process, and it is not so easy to use for 3D printing. Because when aluminum is sintered, an oxide layer will form around the powder particles, which needs to be removed at extremely high temperatures, but the melting point of aluminum itself is low.
Fortunately, there are some aluminum alloys based on 3D printing on the market. To use aluminum for 3D printing on a large scale, breakthroughs in material formulation and printing technology are also required.
Nickel alloy is a high temperature resistant alloy, which is often used to manufacture parts that require high temperature resistance. There are many applications in energy production, oil and gas fields. The nickel alloys currently used for 3D printing are mainly Inconel 625 and 718.
At present, many people do not know that cobalt-based alloys can be used for 3D printing. However, their applications in orthopaedics, aerospace, power generation and dentistry are significant. Commonly used is ASTM F75 CoCr, which has the advantages of good high temperature performance, high strength, corrosion resistance, wear resistance and biocompatibility.
Copper and Copper Alloys
Copper and copper alloys are widely used in industry because of their good electrical and thermal conductivity and ductility. However, copper's high reflectivity and thermal conductivity make it less likely to be 3D printed. Fortunately, 3D printing technology has improved in recent years, and there are now several ways to 3D print with copper.
Refractory metals are a class of very heat-resistant and wear-resistant metals, mainly niobium, molybdenum, tantalum, tungsten and rhenium. They have some common properties, melting point over 2000°C, high hardness at room temperature, high density, etc. Due to their very high melting points, these materials are very challenging to 3D print and are currently mainly printed with binder jet 3D printing technology, followed by high temperature sintering to obtain the final part.
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