Desktop Metal, 3D Printing Materials, Know Your Materials

Know Your Materials: Stainless Steel (Metal) UPDATED

By TriMech on March 5, 2019

Stainless steel materials are characterized by their combination of strength, hardness and corrosion resistance. They're ideal for a variety of applications such as tooling, molds and production parts. In their as-sintered state, material properties consistently meet industry standards. 


When 3D printing these materials in a powder-less environment, the technology leverages Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), the safest, most widely used 3D printing process. Key applications include:

  • Functional prototyping: These applications call for parts that adhere to specific thermal and chemical requirements. The use of an in-house 3D printer allows engineers to explore an iterative design process that includes functional testing.
  • Jigs & fixtures: Jigs and fixtures are complex and they need to meet stiffness and strength requirements, therefore, they typically have to be made in metal. The Studio System prints metal parts that meet strength and durability requirements and can be post-processed after sintering to achieve critical dimensions.
  • Tooling: There are parts with complex geometries that are difficult to achieve (ex: mold cavity inserts). These applications incur in a high initial tooling expense, which represents a high cost of overall part cost. The Studio System builds reliable, highly accurate, durable tools that outperform a plastic equivalent.
  • Low volume production: It is very common that the cost of producing metal parts in low quantities is high. The Studio System results in reduced lead time, and the part costs do not increase, allowing designers to focus on the function of the part rather than the limitations of traditional manufacturability.

Material Options

There are different stainless steel material options, such as the 17-4 PH and 316L.

The 17-4 PH stainless steel material is resistant to the effects of corrosion. It's known for its strength and hardness. These properties allow the material to increase product reliability, which helps reduce production costs. This material is used for applications such as tooling, molds and production parts. It is the most common type of PH stainless steel.

The 316L stainless steel material is a fully austenitic stainless steel, characterized by its corrosion resistance as well as good mechanical properties at high and low temperatures. It is commonly used for applications such as food processing, chemical and petrochemical processing, laboratory equipment, medical devices and more! The use of this stainless steel material makes it easier for users to print parts using their desktop 3D metal printers.

Printing Technology: 3D Metal Printing

This metal material is printed using Bound Metal Deposition (BMD) which is an extrusion-based metal additive manufacturing (AM) process where metal components are constructed by the extrusion of a powder-filled thermoplastic media. Unlike laser-based systems that selectively melt metal powder, the printer extrudes bound metal rods—similar to how an FDM printer works. This eliminates the safety requirements often associated with metal 3D printing while enabling new features like the use of closed-cell infill for lightweight strength. This also allows for printing of other industrially-relevant metallic alloys such as stainless steels, tool steels and other metals that are difficult to process via other AM techniques such as refractory metals, cemented carbides and ceramics.

>> Download the Desktop Metal Studio System+ brochure 

Helpful Tips and Tricks To Remember

As with any 3D printing material, there are some important things to keep present as you use or consider metal printing with the Desktop Metal Studio System+:

  • Evaluate production costs. The different applications of a 3D metal printer allow for production costs to be significantly reduced when prototyping designs.
  • The Studio System eliminates lasers and loose powders often associated with metal 3D printing, making it safe to use in any facility. 
  • Depending on your production needs, consider the Studio Fleet option for greater capacity at a lower cost. It leverages Studio System+ technology—including stackable shelving for batch processing—for the rapid production of complex metal parts. 

>> Product Story: Lumenium Develops Faster Design Iteration and Functional Prototyping

Learn more about the Desktop Metal Studio System+

This article is just meant as an introduction to this material. For additional details and  specifics about all that it can do, take a look at some of our related content:

Want to learn more about the Desktop Metal Studio+ applications? Download the case study below to find out more.