Is 3D Printed Metal Strong?

July 29, 2022

For businesses that manufacture metal components, engineering firms or foundries, 3D printing is highly recommendable and quickly evolving into a supreme form of production. While previously 3D printing’s unique computerised building process was more suited to plastic production, layer manufacturing can now be employed to produce a wide variety of solid metal components. With a straightforward, precise, and speedy production process, it’s no wonder more and more businesses are turning to 3D printing. But how strong are 3D printed metals when compared to traditionally produced metals? Can a printed metal really provide all the benefits of say, casted metal, for instance? This article will look at some of the metals used in additive manufacturing and discuss their strength properties.


The most common metal used in the world and in 3D printing, steel’s uses are wide-ranging and applicable to all industries, with its exceptional strength and low production costs. 3D printed steel components can be as strong, if not stronger than their traditionally manufactured counterparts and are widely used in industries ranging from construction to aerospace. A key upper hand 3D printing offers is its ability to create lattice infills. These are overlapping and interconnecting, partly hollow patterns that make up the internal structure of a 3D printed component. This process cannot be carried out by traditional forms of steel production and the end result is a product that weighs less and requires less material to produce, all the while retaining advanced strength properties. While 3D printing cannot replace all the traditional means of steel production, it is the superior option for a greatly expanding list of products and components. This is further true of metal parts that are particularly intricate or are designed with a specific purpose in mind, such as surgical implants or engine components and spare parts. Depending on the use, 3D printing can actually be the stronger and more convenient option.

Stainless Steel SPEE3D metal 3D printed multi-tool application case study


With its good strength-to-weight ratio, aluminium is malleable and can form easily. It doesn’t rust, thereby making it durable and is lightweight so can be easily cut into thin sheets like foil. It’s resistant to corrosion and so has strong mechanical properties. The 3D printing opportunities with aluminium are far reaching and have so far been applied to industries ranging from automotive to aerospace. 3D-printed aluminium is being used by a variety of leading businesses, such as Boeing, who have so far used these components for a variety of aerospace projects. With constant advancements in additive manufacturing, 3D printing is becoming the production process of choice for aluminium parts due to its strength and lightweight properties.

door latch
Aluminium Bronze SPEE3D printed door latch. See full case study video of the Australian Army printing an Aluminium 6061 door latch using their WarpSPEE3D metal 3D printer


An alloy of copper and zinc, brass is normally used in areas where an economical substitute for precious metals is needed. Due to its resistance to corrosion and its antimicrobial nature, it’s used to make a variety of materials, both for everyday use and for industry.  For example, it’s a preferred material for producing musical instruments, sculptures, faucets, doorknobs, plumbing, bearings and many others in metal manufacturing, and can be done so with exceptional detail. As for its strength and durability when used in additive manufacturing, brass products are exceptionally strong and offer great chemical resistance properties.

Due to their strength properties, 3D-printed metals are used every day in various industries. The following are just some examples of these:

  1. Construction – Rather than replace traditional means of producing metals for construction, 3D printing is complimenting the industry, creating tools and bespoke metals for structural strengthening and repairs.  With the ability of creating lattice infills, 3D printing can provide an intricate internal structure of a component that retains or improves on durability and stability.
  1. Education – 3D printing has made strides transforming education, especially for science, technology and engineering students. For example, engineering students can print out prototypes, while teachers can use it for printing out educational aids. Even architecture students can use 3D printing to create models of their structures and more.
  1. Healthcare – The strength properties offered by 3D printed metals mean they are being used every day in the healthcare sector. The opportunities presented range from surgical instruments to prosthetic devices, all the way to patient-specific replicas of bones. Patients suffering from scoliosis can now benefit from custom-made 3D-printed braces which offer advanced stability.

To Summarise

3D-printed metal components are strong if not stronger than those manufactured by traditional means, however their strength varies depending on what the manufacturers requirements are. Layer manufacturing allows the producer to create lightweight, intricate and cutting-edge components and also permit the creation of designs that are more complex. Products are also manufactured at far higher speeds, while saving money on labour and wastage. From engine components utilised in aerospace, all the way to prosthetic implants used by physicians in healthcare, the strength properties of 3D-printed metals are undeniable. Whether or not 3D printing is the correct choice for a manufacturer will depend on the end goal and the metal’s use.

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