3D Printing with Metal

Take your 3D-printed gizmos to the next level with harder, sleeker, and stronger material.

Did you know 3D printing is so much more than just plastic?

While you can make some awesome toys and art projects using brightly colored plastics, 3D printing is so much more than just that. You can use it to 3D print everything from metal parts for rocket engines to jewelry!

However, metal printing is a bit harder than plastic printing. Its much more dangerous to 3D print a metal creation in your home than a plastic one. Metals are very hard and require much more heat to form them into the shape you want.

Therefore, to 3D print with metal, engineers developed different methods than those used for plastic printing. The primary difference is the metal usually starts as a powder. Then, heat is applied to the powder, melting it into a solid piece. This heat can be applied with very hot ovens called kilns or even with a laser! Other precious metals like gold and silver are poured into a mold that was 3D printed from wax, rather than printing with the metal directly.

Did you know you can get your creations easily made out of metal? Although you won’t be able to do it on your own in a library or in your house, there are people out there who will print your creations in metal for you.

I’d recommend printing your design in plastic first to make sure you like it and don’t want to make any changes. It’s a lot cheaper and faster to keep printing varieties of your design in plastic than in metal. Keep in mind, some things that can be printed in plastic cannot be printed in metal, so be ready to adjust your design after consulting with a metal 3D printing service. Parts could be too small, too big, or even too thin to create in metal.

Don’t be disheartened though! Making changes to your design is part of the engineering design process. By practicing this, you are on your way to becoming an engineer.

Once you are happy with your creation, its time to send if off to be created in metal! A few places that offer metal printing services are Shapeways, Sculpteo, and i.materialise. I personally recommend Shapeways as they often have the cheaper price and have a user-friendly website.

There you will go through final check to make sure your model works, select the metal you want to print in, and send off your order. You can pick from metals ranging from steel all the way up to platinum! Then, a few days to weeks later (it depends on which material you picked) a box with your design created from metal will arrive at your door! Since I use metal 3D printing to create science and engineering jewelry designs for my business, Sci Chic, I have gotten hundreds of these boxes delivered to my door, but its still just as exciting every time! To see your creation come to life in metal is a really cool feeling.

So, don’t be afraid to test out different materials when you are 3D printing. It’s a fun world of making out there so go try it out!

Learn More

3D metal printing services


About 3D printing


3D Printing Materials: Pros and Cons



  • Erin Winick

    Erin is the associate editor of the future of work at MIT Technology Review. She is particularly interested in automation and advanced manufacturing, spurring from her background in mechanical engineering. Before joining Technology Review, she worked as a freelance science writer, founded the 3-D printing company Sci Chic, and interned at the Economist. She can be found at http://www.erinwinick.com.

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