Metal filament is not really metal. It is actually a mix of metal powder and either PLA or ABS. But that does not stop the results from having the look and feel of metal. Bronze, brass, copper, aluminum, and stainless steel are few of the varieties of metal 3D printer filament which are commercially available.
Similar to magnetic filaments, metallic filaments are made by infusing PLA with very fine metal powders. These metal powders may vary by brand. Right now, metallic filaments are available that have brass, bronze, copper, or stainless steel powders. The ratio of PLA to the metal powder vary by the brand and product, but usually falls in the neighbourhood of 80% metal to 20% plastic.
The addition of metal powders gives the filaments a much higher density than the standard plastic filaments. This means that prints made from metallic filaments are much heavier compared to prints made from plastic, despite using the same amount of material.
We are, of course, talking about metal printing that can be done at home using your Desktop 3D printers and composite metal filaments. Full metal 3D printing is a well-established industry, with companies like EOS and Stratasys leading the way. The limitation of full metal 3D printing, as you would expect, is the prohibitively high costs associated with it. Professional metal 3D printers, capable of reaching printing temperatures of up to 1,400 °C, will set you back a nice $500,000.
We like to keep it simple and practical, so let’s stick with what we know best. Composite metal filaments allow us to make prints with the look and feel of full metal prints but at a much more affordable price tag. Keep in mind that there are filaments out in the market that have metallic colouring added to the filament. It is important to keep this distinction, as metallic-coloured filaments have no metal powder infused into them.
|Filament Diameter||2.85 mm/ 1.75 mm|
|Filament Weight||500 Grams|
|Density||1.25 – 1.35 g/cm3|
|Nozzle temperature||190 – 220 ºC (varies based on manufacturer recommendations)|
|Bed temperature||0 – 60 ºC|
|Nozzle size||≥ 0.4 mm (0.6 mm recommended for beginners)|
|Print speed||Around 30 mm/s (may vary)|
|Retraction||± 5 mm|
|Recommended extruder||Direct drive (or Bowden with proper calibration)|
|Durability||Moderate (prints can be more brittle)|
|Abrasion resistance||Very high|