Superior Stainless Steel

Hayley Everett

How can a new stainless steel material for high-volume metal 3D printing benefit demanding industrial applications in harsh environments?

316L is the low-carbon grade of 316 stainless steel, and is commonly used in applications such as laboratory equipment, impellers and pumps, engine parts, food processing equipment and more. A fully austenitic, non-magnetic stainless steel, 316L is known for maintaining excellent performance at room and moderately elevated temperatures, as well as exhibiting superior ductility and mechanical performance.

3D printing as-a-service company 3DEO has launched a 316L material specially designed for use in high-volume metal 3D printing. The weldable material is extremely corrosion resistant, making it ideal for applications in the medical, aerospace and industrial markets that are exposed to harsh environments.

“As our customers aim to innovate and gain a competitive edge with their next generation and new-to-market products, we have seen a strong demand for 316L,” says Matt Petros, CEO and co-founder of 3DEO. “Introducing this to our customers will continue to enable engineers to develop premium products for a wide variety of demanding applications in partnership with 3DEO.”

The company works with its customers to design and manufacture complex metal components at each stage of the product life cycle, from early ideation and prototyping to manufacturing at scale.

“Our talented team of material scientists have been hard at work testing and validating 316L on our technology, and we are thrilled with the results,” Petros continues. “With material properties that meet the MPIF Standard 35 standards, introducing 316L to our customers will allow them to take advantage of the benefits, time-savings and cost-efficiencies of 3D printing using a biocompatible, corrosion-resistant material like 316L for their high-demand applications.”

Intelligent Layering 3D Printing

3DEO’s patented metal 3D printing technology, Intelligent Layering, combines CNC machining and 3D printing to unlock each end-use product’s full potential. The first stage of this metal powder ‘bind-and-sinter’ process includes spreading the finest particle size metal powder at an average particle size of 10 microns. The entire layer of powder is then bound with a proprietary binder and spray system to create uniformity and precise control over depth penetration, which is how 3DEO’s output is more consistent and precise than binder jetting.

The third step is to cut the new layer with up to eight micro end mills. On a layer-by-layer basis, these cutters define the perimeter of the part and any internal features. After all layers are printed, the part is put into a sintering furnace which consolidates the metal powder into a dense metal part.

“3DEO’s technology creates new possibilities in 3D printing, such as the ability to define many layers at the same time or to cut upward-facing geometries in three dimensions, eliminating layer lines,” explains President and co-founder Matt Sand. “The end result is a part with some of the best properties and tolerance in metal 3D printing, especially surface finish and dimensional accuracy.”

Benefits Of 3D Printing 316L

With high wear resistance and near wrought part density of 98.%, 3DEO’s 316L 3D printed components enable customers to produce quality components across a variety of industries and applications.

Sand continues: “Compared with 430L stainless steel, 3DEO’s 316L has greater elongation, higher ultimate tensile strength than even wrought, and slightly lower yield strength. When compared to 17-4PH, because of its ductility, 316L is a better choice for those workhorse-requiring applications because it has more resistance to wear, and is more flexible than 1704PH. Additionally, 17-4PH is less corrosion resistant and is magnetic.”

Enhancing The Design Process

Evidently, different materials exhibit dramatically different material properties. Some materials are harder, more ductile, more conductive, or less corrosion resistant than others, meaning engineers need to choose the right material based on the requirements of a particular application.

“By 3DEO offering more material options, we’re giving engineers the ability to fine-tune their products based on their needs,” Sand says. “It’s an exciting time for 3DEO because, until now, we have only offered 17-4PH in the past. We always received a lot of inbound interest, but made a strategic decision to focus on one material and one production line. After nearly seven years, the company is branching out to new materials and it’s an exciting time for 3DEO and our customers.”

According to Sand, the importance of offering a broad range of materials for engineers and manufacturers cannot be overstated when it comes to accelerating the adoption of 3D printing for industrial applications.

“Competing in the world of production means competing with traditional manufacturing,” he explains. “CNC, casting and MIM offer hundreds of time-tested, proven, purpose-built alloys. With limited material options, the 3D printing industry is forcing engineers to make hard trade-offs. More materials eliminate these hard trade-offs and will definitely help streamline the move to production with 3D printing technologies.”

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