Understanding 3D Printing Titanium


With the wide variety of advancements being made in the field of modern technology, just about all facets of life are affected. From casual entertainment to different applications in business and commerce, technological developments have allowed us to enjoy various different services with greater ease and convenience. Among the latest advancement are printers that are capable of reproducing three dimensional objects for use in numerous fields. This has allowed for many breakthroughs to occur in the fields of medicine and mass reproduction, especially considered the materials with which these printers function. Recent developments have allowed for titanium to be utilized as a construction material in the 3D printing process.

3D printing titanium is also known as direct metal laser sintering, and it is an additive metal fabrication process that was developed in Germany. This process builds on the basic principles of 3D printing through the application of metallic materials for direct utility in just about any field that would need the uses of such immediately developed technology. So far, the technology has been utilized to create articles of titanium jewelry, as well as mechanical parts for bicycles and other transportation equipment. Currently, the most commonly utilized alloys in the creation process include several different types of stainless steel, as well as cobalt chromium and titanium. However, because of the immediate application of the printing process, just about any type of alloy can be theoretically utilized once it has been developed and validated.

The creation process makes use of a 3D computer model that is uploaded to the printing machine’s software. Usually a technician will have to work with the model on the computer first in order to properly arrange its geometry so that it can be constructed and supported physically as it should be. After the file itself has been finalized and all of the necessary changes have been done to the final draft, the structure in the file is divided into separate layers that are then downloaded to the machine that performs the actual construction operation. This machine is known as the DMLS machine, and it uses a powerful optic laser to perform the construction. The laser fires inside of a special building chamber, and in this chamber, a special platform dispenses the building material over a recoating blade, ensuring that the layer is materialized before the blade moves onward to the next layer. This technology fuses the titanium powder into a solid form through the use of local melting by the focus of the laser beam. Layer by layer, the machine builds the object, usually at twenty micrometers of material utilized per layer. This process can easily allow for very complicated geometric figures to be created from the image. The machine handles all of the work after the technician designs the image, and the process is fully automated, taking just a few hours without any other tooling. The DMLS process is very accurate and can result in detailed objects that possess excellent surface quality and durable properties.

There are numerous benefits that come with utilizing the DMLS over other manufacturing techniques. The most obvious of which is how easily and quickly the object can be produced without any special tooling requirements. Because of the nature of the machine, DMLS process can allow for easier testing procedures on prototypes of machine parts. Titanium is just one of the many materials that can be utilized for various production components. Additionally, DMLS can provide more versatile benefits over traditional production methods. Because of how easily the layers can be arranged and designed, complex internal features can be added to objects that would not have ordinarily been able to contain them. Complicated geometric assemblies can be simplified to a few easy to manufacture parts with the utility of 3D printing titanium. Currently, the technology is being used to manufacture parts that can be directly integrated into several industries, including medical, dental, and aerospace.

Any manufacturer that will need to utilize complex parts ranging from small to medium size will benefit from the utility of 3D printing titanium. It can be an especially cost and time effective technology for testing materials, reducing the strain on resources while making sure that the appropriate objects are constructed into the size and shape as desired. Though the technology can be very easily utilized by professional technicians, it is still not without its flaws. Currently, aspects such as size, surface finish, and feature details, are difficult to work with as the printing technology is not yet advanced enough to effectively smooth over these features. Printing through errors in the Z axis may also factor into problems that may arise from the use of this technology. As such, it is crucial for professional to plan ahead before building, and because most of the features are built in the x and y axis during the laying down process of the material, the features can usually be managed effectively. After the construction of certain materials, their surfaces may need to be polished down in order to achieve smoother or even mirror like finishes. Numerous additional considerations will need to be made in order to effectively utilize this manufacturing process in production tooling. The material density should always be taken into consideration, especially in injection molding inserts, where any surface imperfections will often cause problems in the actual products that are made from the molds. Temperatures and surface textures may also cause problems, and these aspects should be taken into consideration before finalizing any products. The production time may be slower when post processing is done, but it may be necessary in order to increase the scale of accuracy. Another problem may occur during the conversion process for more rapid prototyping machines, as the initial file format will need to be properly converted to work with the machine’s specifications. Despite these drawbacks, however, 3D printing titanium has allowed for numerous different industries to benefit from more accurate and more cost effective parts and goods. As further developments are made in this field, more alloy and size options will allow for numerous other different uses of the technology.

Titanium 3D Printer: Everything You Need To Know

In the past few years, 3D printing has caught the public’s imagination. However, like a magician’s hat, it has been limited to producing curios with little utility like plastic skulls with intricate patterns. Recently, 3D printing took a giant stride: the industry can now additively manufacture 3D objects from titanium. A metal valued for it high strength to weight ratio, titanium 3D printing could open new horizons in several industries.

The Technology that makes it Possible: Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

Traditionally, 3D printing has relied on two technologies: stereolithography (SLA) in which a UV laser acts on a photopolymer to create the object layer by layer, and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) in which a high power laser fuses the material in cross-sections outlined in the CAD file. Both these technologies work with simpler materials like plastic, ceramic, or glass and are obsolete when faced with a working material as strong as titanium.

3D printing with titanium has been made possible by a technology new to the digital manufacturing industry, called the Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). First, a computer aided design (CAD) of the part to be manufactured is created and fed to the machine. The laser acts on a homogenous and dense titanium powder that melts to create complex structures.  Titanium 3D printers can attain precision and complexity in design that traditional CNC lathe machines are not capable of achieving. The machine operates in an inert gas (argon) environment. Different titanium 3D printers have different specifications but most of them build objects with a 30 micron layer thickness, allowing a minimum wall thickness of 0.3-0.4mm in the design. Some printers making titanium objects also use a technology called Electronic Beam Transfer (EBM) which is similar to DMLS but uses a beam of electrons in place of the laser.

What’s So Good About a Titanium 3D Printer Produced Object?

To be considered as a viable manufacturing option, a titanium 3D printer should offer value that goes beyond the current hype surrounding 3D printing. These printers pass this test with flying colors. Here is why 3D printing titanium parts is better than producing them using other manufacturing methods:

1 Greater Complexity and Resolution in Design: DMLS with titanium powder allows greater liberties with the CAD design. This includes deep groves, cooling channels in injection mold, cavities, undercuts and free form surfaces. The minimum wall thickness in DMLS using titanium is 0.3-0.4 mm, allowing incredibly detailed designs to be implemented. The produced parts can also be surface finished in a variety of ways.

2. Excellent Mechanical Properties: Titanium is a strong metal to start with. DMLS does an excellent job of preserving this strength during the manufacturing process. Instead of manufacturing multiple smaller parts before and joining them later, DMLS fuses every parts with the whole structure just as the laser creates it.

3. Accuracy in Production: Each part produced confirms to its sanctioned prototype. Typical achievable part accuracy is around +/- 50 microns.

4. Quick Turnaround Time: Depending on the size, parts can be produced in anywhere between a few hours to a few days. This ensures smooth production of the final product with any bottlenecks where final production is halted by availability of parts.

5. Re-design is Easier: If a part is re-designed, creating the newly tooled part is easy because only the CAD machine drawing of the part needs to be replaced. As such re-designing an existing part doesn’t bear a significant impact on the lead time.

Revolution in Titanium Powders for 3D Printing

Titanium has high strength to density ratio, and is corrosion resistant. It is biocompatible and has good bioadhesion and is hence useful in surgical implants. Titanium is also expensive; in 2002, titanium cost 17,000 per tonne as compared to carbon steel’s humble 550 per tonne. Traditionally, manufacturers have incurred significant losses by the titanium wasted during manufacturing. Titanium 3D printers rule these out by reducing wastage to a minimum.

A Rottherhan-based metal manufacturer, Metalysis has devised an innovative way of producing inexpensive titanium powder for 3D printers. The company performs electrolysis on rutile, directly obtaining powdered titanium for it in a continuous process. The morphology and structure of the produced titanium can be controlled in the process. Traditionally, titanium, has been produced by Kroll’s process which produces a porous block of the metal which must be powdered. The company estimates that the cost of powered titanium may come down to three fourths of what it is now. It is currently, planning to set up a powdered titanium plant at the cost of $50 million to $500 million.

Recent Applications of Titanium 3D Printing

3D printed titanium parts have been most enthusiastically received in the aviation industry. General Electric (GE) estimates that printed parts could bring down an aircraft’s weight by 1,000 pounds. GE is already printing fuel nozzles for its new CFM LEAP engines instead of welding each part from 18 smaller parts, as it did before. Airbus Group and EOS have designed 3D printed nacelle hinges in titanium that save 40% more fuel than their traditionally manufactured counterparts.

3D printed titanium parts have witnessed great success in the medical industry as well. A Chinese farmer’s damaged skull was restored with a 3D printed titanium mesh by the collaboration of Stryker, a medical tech firm and the Xijing hospital. Prosthetic cranial implants 3D printed in Trabecular Titanium have been successfully implanted in a patient in Argentina.  Other applications include custom titanium shoes for a race horse in Australia. Hugo Arcier, an artist has created sculptures using 3D printing and displayed them in an exhibition called Dogma. Empire, a bike manufacturer tied up with additive manufacturing firm, Reinshaw to create a 3D printed titanium bike that has been subject of much talk.

Titanium 3D printers are quickly expanding into a profitable manufacturing niche. However, the industry has a few challenges to overcome. The first is bringing down the cost of titanium powder. The second is stopping titanium dust produced during printing from blocking small channels. Nevertheless, the industry can set its sights on conquering manufacturing drawbacks that inhibited use of titanium parts in a number of applications.

Titanium Powder and the New 3D Printing Revolution

In recent years, innovations achieved through 3D printing while utilizing titanium powder in the field of healthcare are amazing. For decades the health care industry could only imagine that additive manufacturing would become a tool for researchers in the medical field. These advances are evolving faster; moreover, titanium powder is enabling new and interesting ideas and fantastic new innovations.

The orthopedic department of Peking University recently announced new developments. Doctors undertook orthopedic clinical trials in 3D printing to produce artificial vertebral parts. Of course, this type of prosthesis has already been printed in 3D, but this is the first time they have been implanted in a patient.

The lucky recipient of this artificial vertebra is a 12-year-old boy named Minghao, and the young patient is the first person in the world to have a vertebral implant of this type. After a neck injury, incurred during a football match, a cancerous tumor was discovered on the second cervical vertebra of the boy, located in the spinal cord. There was an urgent need to remove it to prevent the cancer from spreading.

The standard protocol is normally to replace the vertebrae with a hollow titanium tube, but the patient can no longer lay his head down for 3 months, and must be provided with pins to stabilize everything. By using titanium powder to reproduce the vertebrae, the recovery time is significantly reduced compared to traditional techniques.

The 3D printing complimented with titanium powder has helped design a vertebra that perfectly fits Minghaos’ small frame, and this new vertebrae has the advantage of being perfectly adjusted to the adjacent bone, and does not need to be secured with screws. The titanium implants also exhibit a very low rate of adverse reactions of the immune system.

The results so far are very promising, and the Director of the Department of Orthopedics, Liu Zhongjun, has expressed optimism for using 3D organ printing and implants in the future.

An Industrial Revolution

The equipment that is used to print the implants is really nothing new, but the metal titanium powder used for the creation of implants opens up the door of possibilities. What is new is how 3D printing is used to design and form prostheses. Rather than relying on square shapes that are easier to produce, the ability of the 3D printer to create highly complex geometries reduces the amount of additional hardware needed to build a generic implant that allows individuals to become mobile.  Another advantage is the porous nature of the printed implant that allows bone to grow into the implant and create a natural bond.

At one time, the 3D printing technology seemed to have lost its novelty, but the introduction of this metal powder has ignited a boom for commercial industries, especially medical, automotive, art and lifestyle investors who see the potential in this technology. It’s really a matter of how inventive and creative you can become because armed with a 3D printer and titanium powder, you can produce just about anything.

More importantly, as the benefits of 3D printers grow, so does the demand for titanium powder. The demand for specialized metal powder to feed these machines almost tripled in the four years to 2013.

Why Titanium Powder

Titanium has become a key material in medicine and aerospace due to its excellent compromise between strength and weight, in addition to its high corrosion resistance and bio-compatibility.

Titanium alloys have improved mechanical properties and chemical behavior. It’s mechanical properties (strength, ductility, fatigue, etc.) allows for excellent usage in particular to the ability to shape thin and lightweight parts. Additionally, 3D printing makes it easier to manufacture titanium parts and prevents impurities obtained with traditional techniques.

• Its density is about 60% of that of steel

• Its corrosion resistance is exceptional in many environments such as sea water or the human body. In fact, Titanium is one of the most bio-compatible metals, along with gold and platinum, that is resistant to body fluids completely

• Its mechanical properties are to a high temperature of about 600 ° C and up are excellent cryogenic temperature

• Its fire resistance, particularly hydrocarbons, is very good. It has been shown that a tube of 2 mm thickness has no damage or risk of deformity or explosion and can withstand a pressure of ten atmospheres

Traditionally, 3D printers have been very large and horribly expensive, found in industry-leading corporations.  They allow machining parts to be created with high accuracy especially in aeronautics (The Airbus A380 and printed components), automotive (Audi) and the medical sector (Peking University).

This technology has also been adopted for the purpose of rapid prototyping industry, in architectural firms and other big names in design. But today, thanks to RepRap, an open source project that began in 2005, and these machines have democratized and spawned a generation of 3D accessible to ordinary people.

Professional printers can use up to 200 different materials including plastics, metals, titanium, etc. and as with any technological advance, the success of an innovation often depends on the context in which it develops.

Technological, Medical and Environmental concerns are, more than ever, the center of all discussions. In addition, the outsourcing and off-shoring are starting to show their limits.

• These printers can accommodate rapid-manufacturing locally and thus reduce CO2 emissions and costs due to transportation and delivery time.

• 3D printing limit the waste of raw materials and its coupling with the new modes of small-scale recycling are expected to provide new opportunities for up-cycling quality.

• 3D printing can minimize time constraints for organ transplants and change the ways we produce and/or waste everything.

3D printing has the ability to solve one of the biggest worries of orthopedic medicine, or for that matter, surgery in general. Whether the nose, the jaw, blood vessels, and various parts of the human body, a 3D printer can replicate. Moreover, with the compliment of titanium powder, many industries can creatively and vigorously implement cost-effective solutions for the consumer.

The Best Printing Apps

3D printing apps give everyone the chance to create their own unique products and designs by making and printing unique 3D models. This process of making solid three-dimensional objects is done by additive processes. Taking data from a digital file, 3D printing machines are able to produce 3D objects out of many different mediums. With a plethora of apps popping up on the market 3D printing is now more accessible to the masses. These are some of the best 3D printing apps.

GCodePrintr GCodePrintr - The 3D Print App - screenshot thumbnail For the more advanced 3D model builder GcodePrintr is the real deal. Using any Android device, users can control their 3D printer and print amazing solid models. Builders only need to load a gcode file then use the control interface for customization. GcodePrintr also comes with the ability to view print simulations and modify the speed of the printer. It works alongside a list of 3D printers including MakerBot, Ultimaker, Reprap, Solidoodle and PrintrBot.

3D Builder 3D Builder is a Windows app for viewing, preparing and printing 3D models. It recently added editing and customizing to its features. This fun and easy to use app helps turn digital downloads into physical 3D objects. Users can create their own models or browse through a comprehensive library of 3D art. 3D Builder adds embossing to names and symbols, intricate mold designs and the ability to repair damaged prints.

MakerBot has a wide range of free 3D printing apps. PrintShop is one such free app and is the easiest way to create and print all kinds of interesting and unique 3D models. Users can select the Type, Ring or Bracelet Maker for a quick and intuitive personalized model. The PrintShop also connects designers with the Thingiverse community where their models can be shared, stored and reprinted. MakerBot Mobile features 3D printing on the go and allows users to monitor their 3D printers from anywhere in the world. By accessing Makerbot users can prepare files, pause or cancel prints and receive notifications from their MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer.  MakerBot also manufactures and sells 3D printers.  Here are the latest at MakerBot 3D Printers at Amazon.com.

Tinkercad is a free app geared towards beginners. The program gives users the tools to turn their ideas into CAD models for 3D printing. Designers are able to edit the apps features to best suit their needs, import 3D print ready files, create projects and export in various formats including OBJ and STL. This easy-to-use app also guides users through the basics of 3D design using the ‘Lessons’ feature. Once Tinkercad has been mastered, users now possess the tools to move on to more complex modeling techniques.  You can also purchase books on Amazon for the Tinkercad program.

Sculpteo Sculpteo is a collaborative 3D design maker and a portal to a talented 3D modelling community. Users are able to browse through featured designs, discover other artists and print 3D objects. With a vast catalog of 3D designs and some of the world’s best designers behind them, Sculpteo raises the bar for 3D printing apps everywhere. Browsing Sculpteo’s design collection reveals beautiful 3D creations that can be bought and printed by anyone who uses the app. If the collection doesn’t quite have it all, users can make their own 3D objects using Sculpteo’s 3D printing features.  User can also buy, print or share their creations via Twitter and Facebook. This app is free and available on the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad, IOS 5.0 or later.  Sculpteo storefront was recently launched on Amazon.com.

Meshmixer Meshmixer is a tool for 3D mashups and remixes and gives users the ability to mix, paint, mash, sculpt and stamp 3D designs. There is also the option of choosing from a design gallery of over 10,000 ready to use models. Now with direct 3D printing support thanks to the addition of the Autodesk 3D Print Utility and a variety of sculpting and editing tools, Meshmixer is perfectly optimized for dealing with print ready files. A list of other features include: repair tools, design analysis, materials support and multiple file export.

Modio3D 3D printing apps like Modio3D speak to the growing need for fun and simple user friendly functionality as more as more people are introduced to character and creature design. With Modio anyone can make a fun and unique model using built-in parts and a wide variety of textures. The trick is its drag and drop feature. Users can simply drag parts and snap them together making fully pose-able and fully customizable designs. Modio also boasts a 3D printing visualization interface to ensure the proper size and layout of each part aligns with the printing plate. Each intricate character design powered by this app shows the passion that went into making it a fun success. Mondo is free for a limited time at the iOS app store.

Blockify 2014-02-17 10.47.45 Blockify is a free app that lets builders create using base models, free-form molding or through guided building modes. This app also features one-click wireless printing. Builders can send their designs directly to a 3D printer. Those without a 3D printer only need to order the model through the app and a 3D replica will be sent in the mail. Blockify’s guided building mode brings an additional element not commonly seen in 3D printing apps. Using blok’s blueprints and tutorial features, users can complete complex 3D models, win diamonds and save towards endless customization. A fun social media function allows builders to share their ideas with friends and fellow creators.

Doodle3D Doodle3D is a very unique application that makes it fun and easy to print 3D models of drawing and doodles. The Doodle3D application accompanies the Wifi-Box which is connected to a 3D printer and linked wirelessly to a tablet, smartphone or laptop. Parents and young children use the simple sketching tool to doodle or draw a fun 2D image. The app then translates it into a truly one of a kind 3D model. Users can also use a few editing tools to fine tune their models.

Amazon’s 3D Printing Store

Amazon has recently jumped into the 3D print arena and have created an entire store within Amazon dedicated to 3D printing and printed products.


From doodle making to complex jewelry designs to creature design to toy making, 3D printing has come a long way. Whether you are an experienced designer or beginner to 3D modeling any one of these 3D printing apps will help satisfy your design needs.

3D Titanium Printing Field Applications

3D printing is a fascinating subject all on its own.  However, with the ability now to print metal parts instead of just plastic parts is truly awe-inspiring.  This opens new doors to increase time to market, develop more complex and highly custom parts, reduce tooling expense, create only on demand when and where needed and reducing global transportation costs and emissions.

It is so exciting to see new field applications for 3D printed parts surfacing in the world every day.  From critical medical applications to fun fashion angles, I am truly fascinated with how fast the technology is progressing and like to highlight some of the exciting and fun achievements.

Medical Application Examples

3d-spine-model-620.jpgA complex vertebra has been produced in titanium by 3D printing.  The titanium is printed so that the vertebra is porous therefore allowing the bone to fuse into the 3D printed part.  Printing vertebra allows for an individual customization to match the patient’s anatomy.  Read more at an article published on CBS News website.

CHNOUTDoctors have recently repaired a damaged skull by using a titanium mesh they printed in 3D.  Printing the mesh allowed the part to be customized to match the man’s skull.  Read more at an article published on NY Daily News website.

3D-printed jaw

Jaw bone replacements are now being 3D printed with titanium.  By printing the jaw, they can recreate the patients jaw in a custom fashion and in a significantly faster time frame.  Read more at an article published on BBC news website.


Super high performance automobile manufacturer Koenigsegg is now using a 3D titanium printed variable turbo on some of its car models.  Read more at an article published on Gizmodo’s website.


Renishaw Complete bike with 3D printed titanium alloy frame and seat post bracketis now 3D printing bicycle frames out of titanium.  Printing bicycle frames out of titanium allows for greater design flexibility and a much more lighter and stronger structure.  Read more at an article published on Renishaw’s website.



High-fashion company Hoet Couture is now printing designer eyewear out of titanium material.  The new titanium eyewear allows them for custom, lightweight, complex designs that are also eco friendly.  Read more at an article published on Hoet’s website.

Even furniture is being produced with 3D titanium printing.  This gorgeous and complex Spider Table is produced by UK designer Daneil Widri.


Custom titanium jewelry now can be printed in 3D.  I found this company by the name of Jweel offers a service where you custom design your own unique jewelry on your computer.  Once your personal jewelery design is complete, you can have them 3D print with titanium material.




A company by the name Made In Space has created a 3D printer called the Zero-G printer to be used in space.  This is a fascinating new application for 3D printing.  Now structures can be printed in space instead of manufacturing structures on earth and then launching them into space.  Scientist are even now exploring if they can use existing materials in space for 3D printing.

Airbus is 3D printing titanium parts for their newest A350-XWB passenger jets.  This new technology allows Airbus to rapidly print complex geometric shapes.  Read more at an article published on VOA News website.

Northwestern Polytechnical University in China have 3D printed a 15 foot long solid titanium wing section.  The wing section is designed for the Comac C919 passeger plane and is claimed to meet aerospace durability and strength requirements.  Read more at an article published on 3dprintboard.com’s website.

These are just a few of the many fascinating items that are now being printed in titanium.  We are in the exciting early stages of the technology and who know how far and how quickly it will progress.  I can’t wait to see what is produced next.  If you see any exciting new products now being printed in titanium, please contact us so we can share on this web page.