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Aluminum 3D Printing

By Stephanie Wehrhan

What can be 3D printed? Talking Materials

What can be 3D printed? Talking Materials

There are many options for metal materials in the world of 3D printing. The most common metals used to print parts are Aluminum, Titanium, Inconel, and Stainless Steel. Each of these metals hold unique properties that set them apart from one another. Depending on the desired use of the part, certain materials are more sought after for specific applications and performance vs others.

Aluminum is widely used in the Aerospace industry because of its lightweight material properties. Aluminum has a high strength-to-weight ratio, low density, and natural anti-corrosive properties meaning it doesn’t degrade due to oxidation. AlSi10 is i3D MFG’s most common aluminum powder and generates a high success rate in parts with thin walls and complicated geometries. Another option available is Al6061, which is a highly ductile and cost effective aluminum that prints more than 50% faster than AlSi10. For this reason, it’s becoming more popular in the AM industry for customers seeking faster build times.

Titanium is another popular choice for customers seeking high corrosion resistance with their parts. Similar to Aluminum, Titanium provides low weight and high strength making it an ideal material for Aerospace and Automotive applications. Titanium is commonly used as an alloying element with Aluminum or Steel to achieve specific properties in terms of ductility, strength, and hardness. Ti64 powder is well suited for projects requiring weight reduction and bio-compatibility. Ti64 typically hardens to 36-41 HRC after heat treatment.

Inconel comes from a family of high-performance alloys, known for its strength and resistance to thermal degradation. Because of this, Inconel alloys (such as IN625 and IN718) hold up when used in high temperature applications. Industries such as the Aerospace and Automotive industry use Inconels because they provide superior heat resistance with a typical heat treatment hardness of 40-47 HRC.

Similar to Inconel alloys, Haynes 282 is a super-alloy developed for high temperature structural applications and provides excellent resistance to strain-age cracking. Haynes 282 also has high ductility making it easy to fabricate and machine, because of this it is a popular material choice for the Aerospace and Automotive industry. Haynes 282 powder typically hardens to 20-32 HRC after heat treatment.

Stainless Steel is commonly sought out for projects that require high resistance to heat and corrosion. Our stainless steel powders are medical grade and typically harden to 40-45 HRC after heat treatment. Due to its characteristics, Stainless Steel is a particularly good choice for parts requiring high strength and hardness. Stainless steel parts can be machined, welded, polished, and coated making them ideal for corrosion resistant applications.

Whatever your desired application is, i3D can help assess your needs and provide suggestions for materials that will cause your project to excel. From prototypes to production ready parts, we’re happy to navigate customers through our selection of high-performance metals to help pick the right material for any given project.

By Stephanie Wehrhan

Additive Manufacturing and Post Processing – A synergetic relationship

In the world of Additive Manufacturing, 3D printing is usually the first thing that comes to mind. However there is something equally as important in AM, and that’s strong relationships with post processing vendors. Once a part has been 3D printed, they are often not complete for a customers proposed application. This is why we rely on a synergetic relationship with post processing services to help us provide a complete and finished product that meets the customers criteria. The most common post processing services utilized in the AM industry today are Post-Machining, HIP treatment, and Anodizing.

Our friends at Cascade Precision Inc, an Oregon based AS9100 and ISO9001 certified Post-Machining company help to post process parts that require further assistance before they are considered complete. Post-Machine shops utilize high precision CNC machines to either lath or mill a part to meet given parameters or tolerances.

When parts need their density increased, heat combined with pressure is applied to the material from all directions in a manufacturing process called HIP (Hot Isostatic Pressing). Argon is the most commonly used pressure medium. After optimal HIP treatment is applied to parts tensile strength can increase significantly based on the ductility desired by the customer.

When aiming to give a part a certain cosmetic look, customers rely on anodizing services. Anodizing hardens and coats parts to make them tougher and give them a specific color chosen by the customer. Anodizing can differ between soft and hard coating, soft coating provides a thin coating while hard coating provides a thicker coating to help prevent corrosion.

Looking to the future, the importance of maintaining a synergetic relationship with post processing services cannot be overlooked. This relationship is crucial to meet the dynamic demands of the AM industry. i3D is committed to establishing strong working relationships with post processing services in order to provide the best product possible to suite our customers needs.

By i3d

i3D Collaboration with Penn Electric Racing

Congratulations to Penn Electric Racing who placed third overall at FSAE Lincoln, along
with second in the Autocross event, third in the Endurance event, and first in the
Cummins Advanced Technology Award.  I3D collaborated to create their in-hub 4-
wheel-drive powertrain, with DMLS printed motor housings which improved
performance. Penn Electric has been able to validate that this powertrain increased
power output and cornering ability, specifically aiding in the Autocross and Endurance
events. Additionally, the integrated cooling channels and lightweight AlSi12 material in
the housings have allowed us to optimize our performance and stay at the forefront of
the competition.

3D printing allows for tailored designs and specifications in a variety of materials that
would otherwise be costly or impossible to create. i3D is an Oregon based AS9100D
Certified AM contract manufacturer specializing in Disruptive Metal 3D Printed
production parts. We stock 16 metal powders including Aluminum, Titanium, and
several Super Nickel Alloys.  Attached is a list of our current metal powders. Our
strengths include expertise in custom development with our 7 EOS M290 DMLM and 1
EOS M400.4 machines.  Achieving better surface finishes, organic geometries
and tailored density and porosity is our specialty. Our engineers focus exclusively on
Metal 3D Printing and have developed extensive tribal knowledge around DMLM
design and strategies for best success.

By i3d

3D Metal Printing (Additive Manufacturing) Gives The Ability To Create The Nearly Impossible: With Limitations

Marc Saunders, Director – Global Solutions Centres at Renishaw, recently discussed how Additive Manufacturing (AM), a specifically 3D metal printing, can give us the ability to create components from designs that would be nearly impossible to produce conventionally.

As he points out, it’s not as simple though as having “unfettered freedom” to do whatever we want.  There are capabilities and limitations.

Mr. Saunders does a great job pointing out some key design considerations for laser melted metal parts. Here’s a few he points out:

  • Feature Size
  • Surface Finish
  • Overhangs
  • Lateral holes
  • Minimizing supports
  • Residual stress and distortion

Give the article a read in order to get the details on these key considerations.  As Marc point out,

“AM gives us huge freedom to design parts differently, but we do need to be aware of some of the characteristics and limitations of the process, so that we create parts that can be built successfully.

The DfAM rules described above are not too onerous in practice, and actually encourage us to consider ways to make parts that are lighter, faster to build, and more cost-effective.

Modern design and build preparation software helps enormously to find an optimum design, orientation and support strategy so that we can produce consistent parts economically. “


By Erin Stone

DMLS Stands Out as 2015 Focal 3D Printing Technology

DMLS Stands Out as 2015 Focal 3D Printing Technology

What makes Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) a leading 3D printing technology in 2015? It’s not new news that DMLS prints metal 3D parts. Here are some new exciting new trends  that Steve Heller, 3D specialist for the Motley Fool found “incredible”:

  Read more

By Erin Stone

3D Printing Takes the Cost of Complexity to Zero

3D Printing Takes the Cost of Complexity to Zero

Whats is the definition of “game changer” for metals manufacturing? Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), a 3D printing process that eliminates binding agents and uses 400-1000 W lasers to melt micro powders together, layer by layer until a 3D CAD model of a part is built, is one of the 3D manufacturing processes that are the the epitome of “game changer” according to Hod Lipson or Cornell University.   Read more

By Erin Stone

Just How Small Can DMLS Print?

Just How Small Can DMLS Print?

3D metal printing is in its element when it comes to production parts at micro scales. While machine development is focusing on creating DMLS paltforms that can print parts over 14″, Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), current DMLS capabilities are perfect for small, complex parts. 3D printing enables i3D MFG™ to deliver integral tiny, complex parts in Aluminum, Titanium, Maraging Steel, Stainless Steel and Inconel to Aerospace, Prosthetics, Medical Devise, UAV/UAS, Rocket/Spacecraft, Oil & Gas, Firearms, and Recreational Gear industries. For the part shown, a .015″ (15 thousandths of an inch) high latticed geometry was grown in Maraging (tool) steel. Machining the tiny part out of such a tough metal was expensive and problematic. Since DMLS build parts from mirco powder layers, laser melted together one micro layer at a time, 3D printing precise micro geometries is not much more difficult than printing large bulky parts – in fact, the larger the mass on a DMLS machine, the greater the risk of delamination and failed builds.

DMLS Micro Parts in Production Quantities

Currently, DMLS can accurately and repeatably manufacture parts as small as .030″ in Aluminum and Inconel and .015″ in Stainless Steel, Maraging Steel and Titanium. Additionally, complex assemblies of small to medium-sized  parts can be printed as a single part, eliminating weld lines, gaskets and fasteners. With micro parts, this can be a huge savings in precision assembly labor. Combine that  with a cost effective means of manufacturing small, complex parts in ferrous and non-ferrous metals ranging from Aluminum that does not register on the HRC scale to Maraging Steel that can be heat treated to 54 HRC, and the design innovations are astounding. Exotic metals also become affordable because DMLS does not produce the 30-70% scrap that traditional machining operations might. Contact i3D™ to learn more about our DMLS, Wire EDM, 3D Scanning and Design-for-3D serv

Material Process Applications

By Erin Stone

Is DMLS Metal Powder the Real Thing?

Is DMLS Metal Powder the Real Thing?

The short answer is YES. The longer version is, that DMLS powder performance is highly dependent on the expertise of the machine operator and 3D engineering design. i3D™ Manufacturing specializes in DMLS powder performance and applications. As the EOS Material Process Applications (MPA) partner, i3D™ is proactive in using open parameter sets on its machines to achieve varying densities, analyze layer performance, and optimize part quality. Densities can range to nearly 100% allowing for post process of DMLS metal parts in all of the same ways machined and cast parts are treated.


Not all DMLS Powders are Created Equal

Uniform particle size and shape is the ultimate goal.  Making sure that your DMLS provider knows the atomization process and resulting powder quality of their materials is a critical question. Read about AMA’s process. Ask the provider how they sieve their powders between builds. It makes a big difference in the quality of the part. Also ask about the material change-over procedures and powder storage conditions. Keep in mind, junk in, junk out. Below is a list of stock metal powders i3D™ uses. We also work with custom DMLS powder creation and applications such as Monel K 500 and Ti 6-2-4-2.

Aluminum (AlSi12) – better flow through the machine and very little residual Si. Great for thermal properties and weight considerations. Equivalent to 6061 billet. Fastest building and most cost effective material.

Titanium (Ti64) – i3D™ mastered DMLS titanium and recommends it for weight reduction and strength considerations. No waste 3D printing makes Titanium a highly cost effective DMLS material.

Inconel 718 – Widely used for aerospace applications. Highest reflectivity with excellent strength and corrosion resistance. Medium build speed with properties much like steel.

Stainless Steel (15-5, 17-4 & 304) – Strong and great corrosion resistance. The one draw back is that steel has a slow build time and is often a less cost effective option.

Maraging (tool) Steel – Hardens to 58 HRC after heat treat. Excellent choice for mold tool and production tool needs.

By Erin Stone

Heat Sinks are an Ideal DMLS Application

Heat Sinks are an Ideal DMLS Application

Conformal cooling channels manufactured out of 6061 Aluminum open up amazing possibilities for heat sink applications. Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) metal 3D printing cost effectively allows aerospace, oil & gas, and automotive engineers not only to easily manufacture cooling channels, but to produce conformal micro channels that traditional manufacturing cannot achieve. Since DMLS powder is a 6061 Aluminum equivalent, the thermal conductive properties are also well matched. With held tolerance’s off the machine of +/- .004 and a process that builds parts with highly complex internal geometries, compact heat sinks that maximize surface area and air flow are possible. DMLS melts metal powder layers together to nearly 100% density, also making these innovative heat sinks manufacturable using 3D metal printing.

Study Shows DMLS Most Effective Way to Produce Heat Sinks

A recent Plunkett Associates study looked at a variety of methods to build more efficient heat sinks and it concluded that, “The five best performing heat sinks were built using DMLS.”  They further concluded that all five cases showed a consistent heat source temperature when compared to traditional extruded and stamped 2D processes. A different IOP Science study examined the impact of DMLS surface roughness on heat sink performance and concluded, ” Our results offer an evidence of the possible impact of DMLS on electronic cooling since a 50% and 20% enhancement (compared to milled samples) is observed for flat and finned heat sinks, respectively… These results open the way for a huge boost in the technology of electronic cooling by DMLS.”

i3D MFG™ has produced several successful heat sink projects for a variety of aerospace and UAV companies using our DMLS Aluminum. In addition to the conformal cooling channels and the surface roughness advantages, client can also produce multiple designs on one build for testing and then come back and do production runs on the bets performing design. i3D™ also 3D prints in Titanium, Stainless Steel, Maraging Steel, and Inconel.

By i3d


You needed your Injection Mold Tooling when? Yesterday??

The Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) process has been rapidly gaining recognition as perhaps one of the most powerful technologies available in the additive manufacturing world. The recent material parameter developments coupled with outstanding resolution and speed of fabrication are making DMLS cavity and core inserts a very successful tool that can be used to shorten lead times, reduce costs and push multiple projects through in the same amount of time that one project normally takes. i3D Manufacturing can print mold cavity and core inserts within days, giving end-use customers competitive advantages in real time-to-market, product development, and small batch production. Our Aluminum, Maraging Tool Steel and Stainless Steel mold tools can be post processed in all of the same ways as cast or machined parts, from polishing to welding to anodizing. 

Interchangeable Cavity and Core Insert Blocks

i3D™ owns North America’s first EOS M290 DMLS 3D Printing machine. As an official Material Process Applications (MPA) for EOS, i3D™ prides itself on its DMLS material and 3D print application innovations. Our interchangeable mold tool cavity and core universal base provides injection molders flexibility in switching out cavity and cores in small and medium batch runs at economical tooling and change-over costs.
With the latest, highest quality equipment i3D™  is able to achieve densities at nearly 100%, allowing for any finish requirements to the various 3D printed cavity and cores. Lattice and honeycomb designs specially tailored for optimal part cooling and heating add more value to the mold block design options. Injection molders can offer their clients tool design, manufacture, and part production in as little as 3 weeks. The process is all on-shore, protecting customer designs and avoiding costly tool change expense. Rapid Injection Tooling is often used as a bridge between prototyping and production but, not always. If you have low volume injection molding requirements, rapid tooling could be the answer for you. 
Aluminum (AlSi12)
AlSi12 is our most common DMLS Aluminum powder and is perfect for projects with good thermal and low weight considerations. It is an optimal metal for parts with thin walls and complex geometries
Maraging “Tool” Steel (MS1)
Our Maraging Steel powder has excellent strength and mechanical properties. MS1 is a pre-alloyed, ultra high strength powder most commonly used for tooling applications. Its chemical composition corresponds to U.S. 18% Ni, Maraging 300, European 1.2709 and German X3NiCoMoTi 18-9-5. After heat treatment, MS1 typically has a 50-53 HRC.
Stainless Steel (PH1)
PH1 is a medical grade, sterilisable, corrosion resistant steel. It is primarily used in Medical, Firearms, Energy and Automotive applications. After heat treatment, PH1 hardens to 40-45 HRC. Our Stainless steel equivalents include 15-5, 17-4 and 316. Parts made from EOS Stainless Steel PH1 can be machined, spark eroded, welded, micro shot peened, polished and coated if required.


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i3D Collaboration with Penn Electric Racing
DMLS Stands Out as 2015 Focal 3D Printing Technology
3D Printing Takes the Cost of Complexity to Zero
Just How Small Can DMLS Print?
Material Process Applications
Is DMLS Metal Powder the Real Thing?
Heat Sinks are an Ideal DMLS Application