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Strong, Yet Light: Introducing Aluminum

by • January 5, 2016 • No Comments

When you ponder about Aluminum, what comes to mind? Very large sheets that are turned into car and machine parts? Or perhaps you ponder of day to day household items like Aluminum foil or soft drink cans. Whatever you ponder of, you most likely never thought you could turn it into an incredible product by yourself.

Until now, that is.

Currently we welcome Aluminum to our materials portfolio – it’s the perfect material for tools, drone parts and gadgets and is amazingly unique in the way it is turn it intod and how it can be utilized.


(Klein Bottle Opener by Bathsheba)

Aluminum was added as a pilot material last year, and since then we’ve been busy working with community participants to perfect this incredible material. While all new materials are fun to introduce, we’re so glad to begin 2016 off with Aluminum for the reason it really showcases how far the 3D printing industry has come and where it’s headed in the future.

Whether you are a Shapeways pro and have been designing with us for years, or you are pondering about trying 3D printing for the first time, Aluminum might just be the perfect material for you!

Why is it so cool?

First, a few factors to get you acquainted with this new material. Our 3D printed Aluminum has:

  • The top durablity to mass ratio of all our materials
  • High corrosion resistance
  • High thermal conductivity
  • The ability to support interlocking parts

As most of you may already understand, we have offered different types of metals for years. But, Aluminum is unique for the reason of the way we are able to print it. Using a system called selective laser melting (SLM), the material is directly melted and futilized from a bed of metallic powder that outcomes in a solid alloy. It is much like to the selective laser sintering (SLS) system we use to manufacture Strong and Flexible Plastic. But, in SLM the high power laser provides adequate energy to fully melt the metallic powder, that is then rapidly cooled to solidify the metal. The outcome is a sturdy, homogenous and high tolerance metal part that can outcome in shapes and designs that are not easy to turn it into through traditional manufacturing methods.


(Horse Shoe and Ring Puzzle by stop4stuff)

What can I manufacture?

One of the largest advantages of Aluminum is its high durablity and low mass, making it perfect for products that require to remain light but be able to handle a high load – the precise reason it is utilized for flight and car applications. But, if you are not planning on assembling a plane anytime soon, our Aluminum is perfect for:

  • Gadgets ( robotics, gears, desk toys, etc.)
  • Drone parts (arm extensions, camera mounts, landing gears, etc.)
  • Tools (bottle openers, multi-tools, custom jigs, etc.)

Those acquainted with assembling robotics understand that mass and mass distribution is incredibly important, and Aluminum is a popular metal utilized to decrease the mass of a frame and platform for different types of designs. Similarly, those designing drone accessories want a material that can endure a rough landing, or even an unlucky crash. Aluminum can help to absorb that impact and preserve your drone and camera. Its durablity lends itself to being preserveive and is frequently utilized for casings for laptops, phones, sports equipment and more. And of course, it’s sturdy adequate to open any bottle you might require!


(Shark Bottle Opener by AndyZoer)

How do I get begined?

Check out the Aluminum material page to hear our Materials Product Manager, Blair, tell you more about Aluminum and how it can work for you. You will also find everything you require to understand about design guidelines so you can manufacture certain your product will successfully print in Aluminum.

If you may already have a drone part, bottle opener, etc. that you’ve printed with us before, give it a try in this new material and see how it works. Have a new design you want to test out? Upload it, manufacture an order and within a couple of weeks you’ll have your very own 3D printed Aluminum design! For those of you new to 3D modeling, be certain to check out this page to be connected with a designer who can help bring your idea to life. If you have any inquiries along the way, reach out to our Community Manager, Andrew, at andrew@shapeways.com or on the forums and he’ll guide you along.

Aluminum is the 54th material we’ve added to our portfolio, and it certainly isn’t our last. Keep a lookout for new materials throughout the year and in the meantime, let us understand below what materials you want to see next!

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