How to use a Metal 3D Printer

Article by Ali Shahab updated April 29, 2019

The Desktop Metal Studio System is the world’s first affordable, office-friendly metal 3D printing system. Safe and simple to use, the Studio System was designed to bring metal 3D printing to the shop floor by allowing engineering and design teams to make metal parts faster, without the need for special facilities or dedicated operators.

Watch this video to learn the steps involved in metal 3D printing with a Desktop Metal Studio System:

Step 1: Design Your Part

The first step is 3D modelling a part in Desktop Metal’s cloud-based software, providing control over the parts printed features such as orientation and support structures. Adjusting the part orientation and support structures can minimize print time and save material. It is always good practice to use custom settings for the best print.  

Figure 1: 3D Rendering of turbine on Desktop Metal’s cloud based software ‘Fabricate’

Step 2: Print Your Part

Next the Studio System is used to print the model using a process called Bound Metal Deposition (BMD), which is an extrusion-based metal additive manufacturing process – similar to the FDM (fused deposition modeling) process on many plastic 3D printers. The Studio System has two independent extruders, one for the material and the other for ceramic interface. The ceramic interface is what helps separate the metal part from the support structures. In fact, the ceramic interface disintegrates into a powder once the part is sintered.

Figure 2: Desktop Metal’s extrusion based printing

Step 3: Debind Your Part

Your new 3D model is composed of metal powder held together by wax binder, which needs to be removed before it is sintered. Ensuring the removal of all primary wax binding is important for the best results and avoid part failures like cracks and blisters. The Studio System Debinder immerses the printed part in debind fluid, which creates an open pore structure for the remaining binder to escape during sintering.

Step 4: Sinter Your Part

The last step in the Studio System process is to sinter the 3D printed part. In this step, the part is heated to just below the melting point of the metal, which solidifies the metal part. It is important to check the sintering success of your part at the beginning phase of modeling the part. A typical sintering cycle takes around 40 hours to complete. Sintering time depends on the size, geometry and layout of your 3D printed parts. As the size of the parts increase and geometries become more complex, the overall sintering time can increase up to 49 hours.

Figure 3: Separated part placed inside furnace ready to be sintered

Once the part is sintered, the support structures can be removed from the part, then the final part can be post processed for a nice finish.

Figure 4: Ceramic interface layers help remove the support structures from the main part

Learn More: Exploring metal finishing methods for 3D printed parts

Desktop Metal partnered with Fortune Metal Finishing (FMF) — a leading supplier of finishing equipment and supplies—to test various finishing methods on metal parts printed with the Studio System™ to observe resulting surface finish and other characteristics.

Download the white paper to learn more about the three techniques for metal finishing:

  • Centrifugal disc
  • Centrifugal barrel
  • Media blasting

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Ali Shahab

Ali is an Additive Manufacturing Co-op with Javelin, and he is currently enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Mechatronics program at Ryerson University.