TIPS WITH TONY: Prototyping with Hard Metals

Last week we discussed prototyping with soft metals like aluminum, copper and brass, so this week we turn our attention to hard metals and processes (3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding) used for rapid prototyping in low volumes.

 

SS 316

SS 17-4

SS 304

Nickel Steel

Steel Alloy

Titanium

Inconel

Cobalt Chrome

DMLS

X

X

 

 

 

X

X

X

CNC

X

X

X

 

X

 

 

 

MIM

X

X

 

X

X

 

 

 

Hard metals that are offered in three different manufacturing processes at Proto Labs: direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), CNC machining (CNC) and metal injection molding (MIM).

Stainless Steel
Stainless steel (SS) is one of the most widely used metals in our material library and is available in three different grades and all three services: 3D printing, machining and molding.

  • 304L is only available for machined parts and offers a higher tensile strength and good corrosion resistance while offering a slightly lower price than other stainless steel materials.
  • 316L is available in machining, industrial 3D printing through direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) and metal injection molding (MIM). 316 offers an improved corrosion and chemical resistance over 304 while offering a high temperature tolerance.
  • 17-4PH is also available in all three manufacturing methods and offers a higher yield and tensile strength with good resistances to corrosion. 17-4 also offers a higher magnetism of all our SS offerings.

TIPS WITH TONY: Prototyping with Soft Metals

Soft metals — aluminum, magnesium, brass, copper — are available in different grades at Proto Labs depending on the 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding service chosen. Quantities range from 1 to 5,000+ parts in 1 to 15 business days.

Aluminum engine bracket 3D printed through DMLS.

Aluminum
At Proto Labs, we use the industrial 3D printing process of direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) to build parts from soft (and hard) materials like aluminum.

DMLS-built aluminum provides parts with excellent strength-to-weight ratios, temperature and corrosion resistance, and provides good tensile, fatigue creep and rupture strength. With a tensile strength of 37.7 ksi (260 MPa) and a hardness of 47.2 HRB, for example, you are able to have parts produced in nearly any part geometry with features like internal channels or complex undercuts that can’t be manufactured through any other method. And, final parts are still up to 98% dense.

You can also get aluminum parts using CNC machining in 6061 and 7075 grades. 6061 can provide you with improved corrosion resistance and can be welded while 7075 provides you a part that has a higher tensile strength and is harder than 6061.

Do you need a prototype of an aluminum die-cast part? We can mimic aluminum die casting using our stereolithography (SL) process and SLArmor technology. SLArmor uses our DSM Somos (NanoTool) material, applying a nickel metal coating that gives the look and feel of metal without the added strength or weight.

 

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Finding the Right Surface Finish

Molded parts are everywhere — from highly cosmetic housings hiding in plain sight to internal components where a fine polish is unnecessary. Most people pay no attention to the surface finish on those parts, but for product designers and engineers, it’s an important design consideration.

Identifying the right surface finish is dependent on a few important elements, namely the development or production stage that your parts are in, the materials they’re being manufactured in and their end-use applications.

On custom finishes, use color coding to provide a clearly marked image of your CAD model with its required finishes.

This month’s tip discusses:

  • available surface finishes for injection molded parts at Proto Labs
  • how to create a custom surface finish involving two or more finishes
  • navigating finishes within ProtoQuote
  • why gating and ejection play a limited role in liquid silicone rubber parts
  • secondary options applied to magnesium components

Read the full design tip here.

Just Press Play for a Tour of Injection Molding

Our short video series continues with a look at the three different injection molding processes available at Proto Labs. See how we manufacture plastic, metal and liquid silicone rubber prototypes and low-volume production parts so fast.

Use CNC machining more? Take a spin through one of our high-speed mills. And if you’re curious as to how we’re able to turn your 3D CAD model into real parts in only a few days, check out our Art to Part video.