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.

A steel alloy component produce through metal injection molding.

Steel Alloy
Steel alloy materials (4140 and 1018) are available in machining while Catamold 42CrMo4 (equivalent to 4140) is available in MIM. These materials are heat-treatable, and after heat treatment can provide good toughness and wear resistance. These materials are often times less expensive to manufacture than stainless steel.

Nickel Steel
Nickel steel is only available through injection molding in two grades. We mold parts in Catamold FN02 MIM case-hardening nickel steel and Catamold FN0205 hardenable nickel steel.

Why use nickel steel over steel alloy? Nickel steel often times will have a lower piece-part price as the feedstock is less expensive, you can improve its hardness and impact resistance after heat-treating as well as improved resistances to oxidation and corrosion. These materials are extremely popular in the firearm industries.

Exotic Metals
Really, the only exotic thing about this category of materials, which includes titanium, Inconel and cobalt chrome, is that they are only currently offered through DMLS at Proto Labs.

  • Titanium provides excellent strength, temperature and corrosion resistance, and along with its lightweight nature, it’s a popular choice for aerospace and medical applications.
  • Inconel also offers a material with high strength and corrosion resistance with the added nickel, but also offers a wide operating temperature of -432°F to 1300°F. These properties make it a popular material for rocket engine components or applications that are exposed to extreme environments.
  • Cobalt chrome shares many beneficial properties of other metals including high strength-to-weight ratios, and excellent creep and corrosion resistances, making it popular in the aerospace industry along with dental and orthopedic applications due to its excellent biocompatibility properties.

For our full list of materials in 3D printing, CNC machining and injection molding, visit our website or contact one of our customer service engineers at customerservice@protolabs.com or 877.479.3680. We also have a free white paper on Rapid Manufacturing for Metals you can download that digs much deeper.

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