Choosing the Right Metal Manufacturing Process for Your Custom Parts

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When it comes to building end-use metal parts there are multiple options, from traditional processes like CNC Machining and Sheet Metal fabrication to additive manufacturing technologies like Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) and Metal Binder Jetting.

To help you choose the right option for your next project, Xometry’s team of engineers have created a summary of these four processes, including the key benefits, available materials and more.

As you read on, note that metal 3D Printing and CNC Machining are not mutually-exclusive; they can actually complement each other. Many engineers and designers have DMLS parts machined to hit tighter tolerances or achieve certain finishes.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) 

DMLS is capable of building complex geometries that otherwise wouldn’t be possible using traditional manufacturing. Additionally, metal sintered parts possess nearly the same strength and density as cast metal parts, but can be built in a fraction of the time.

Common materials include: Aluminum, 17-4 Stainless Steel, 316 Stainless Steel

Best suited for projects that need:

  • Metal parts with complex geometries
  • Aftermarket/replacement parts for legacy systems
  • Low-volume parts and prototypes for functional testing

Metal Binder Jetting 

Metal Binder Jetting is an economical 3D printing option, with some of the benefits of DMLS, including high strength and abrasion-resistance properties, but for a fraction of the cost.

Common materials include: Stainless Steel infiltrated with Bronze (60% 420 or 316L Stainless Steel, and 40% Bronze)

Best suited for projects that need:

  • Low-cost, complex metal parts
  • Parts that are too large for the DMLS build platform
  • High abrasion resistance (e.g., thermal, chemical or mechanical stress)

Note on tolerances: Parts can shrink during the secondary furnace process (approximately 1-2%)

CNC Machining 

CNC Machining offers high precision parts with a high-quality finish. Vast material options, precise tolerances, and multiple finish options have made CNC machining a favorable technology for rapid tooling and end-use parts.

Common materials include: Aluminum, Brass, Carbon Steel, Copper, Stainless Steel, plus others available

Best suited for projects that need:

  • Production-quality materials
  • Tight tolerances
  • Production at scale (up to 10,000 parts)
  • Custom finishes, including anodizing, passivating, plating, and powder coating

Sheet Metal Fabrication 

Sheet metal is capable of producing thin walled parts that are either not possible or not cost-effective to build via CNC milling.

Common materials include: Aluminum, Copper, Stainless Steel, Steel, Zinc

Best suited for projects that need:

  • Thin metal walls
  • Low-cost device panels, brackets, boxes, cases, and chassis
  • Lightweight applications

For more information on additive manufacturing and machining processes visit Xometry.com, and get an instant quote in any of the above processes today! Discuss in the Xometry forum at 3DPB.com.

 

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