Aluminum Material Information

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Finishes
Raw Aluminum Raw Aluminum
Price $10.00 handling fee
$7.00 per cm3
$0.23 per bounding box cm3
$0.45 per surface area cm2
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15 business days

Design Guidelines for Aluminum

The rules to follow in order to create successful products in Aluminum. Read more on model checks

Rules

Max bounding box 250 × 250 × 200 mm

For us to be able to make a product, each of its pieces must fit within these dimensions.

For Aluminum, the maximum bounding box is determined by the size of the printer we use to create your product.

To ensure the successful creation of your product, make sure the bounding box fits within our maximum limit. If it does not, you can try scaling it down, removing unnecessary features to reduce the bounding box, or considering another material with a bigger maximum bounding box.

Min bounding box X + Y + Z > 30 mm

For us to be able to make a product, each of its pieces must be bigger than these dimensions.

For Aluminum, the minimum bounding box is determined by our ability to successfully cast very tiny products.

To ensure the successful creation of your product, make sure the bounding box of your product is larger than our minimum. If it is not, you can try scaling it up, thickening, combining, or enlarging parts and features, or trying a material with a smaller minimum bounding box.

Recommendations

Thickness Minimum 1.0 mm thick
Suggested 1.6 mm thick

For Aluminum, the minimum thickness is determined by our ability to successfully break away support material and clean your product once it has been removed from the printer. Features that are too thin often break when support materials are removed, or during post processing.

To ensure the successful creation of your product, make sure all features of your product thicker than the minimum requirement. If they are not, try making them thicker.

Min Wire Thickness 1.5 mm thick
Suggested 2.0 mm thick

A wire is a feature whose length is greater than two times its width.

Some wires are too thin to withstand our manufacturing process without breaking. For Aluminum, the minimum thickness is determined by our ability to successfully break away support material and clean your product once it has been removed from the printer. Features that are too thin often break when support materials are removed, or during post processing.

We recommend that wires be at least be 1.5mm thick. However, sometimes they are required to be 2mm or thicker depending on the geometry.

To ensure the successful creation of your product, make sure supported wires are thicker than the minimum requirement. If they are not, try making them thicker, or consider a material with a smaller minimum supported wire requirement.

Min embossed detail 0.40 mm high and wide
0.50 mm high and 0.8 mm min wide for readable text and clear images

A detail is a feature whose length is less than twice its width. Embossed details stick out from a surface.

For Aluminum, the minimum detail is determined by the printer's resolution. When detail dimensions are below the minimum, the printer may not be able to accurately replicate them. Details that are too small can also be smoothed over in postprocessing.

To ensure details come out clearly, make them larger than the indicated minimum. We may refrain from printing products with details smaller than the minimum, since the final product will not be true to your design. If your product has details smaller than the minimum, try making them larger, removing them, or considering a material with finer detail.

Min engraved detail 0.40 mm deep and 0.6 mm wide
0.5 mm deep and 1.0 mm min wide for readable text and clear images

A detail is a feature whose length is less than twice its width. Engraved or debossed details go into a surface.

The minimum detail is determined by the printer's resolution. When detail dimensions are below the minimum, the printer may not be able to accurately replicate them. Details that are too small can also be smoothed over in postprocessing.

To ensure details come out clearly, make them larger than the indicated minimum. We may refrain from printing products with details smaller than the minimum, since the final product will not be true to your design. If your product has details smaller than the minimum, try making them larger, removing them, or considering a material with finer detail.

Min escape holes 4.0 mm diameter for one escape hole


2.0 mm diameter when there are two or more escape holes

Escape holes allow unbuilt material inside hollow products to be removed.

When products contain hollow cavities, they are often filled with aluminum powder even after they are removed from the build tray. If escape holes are not large enough, or the geometry of the product makes it difficult to shake or blast the powder out, we cannot successfully clean it.

To ensure the successful creation of your product, make sure the escape holes are large enough to allow the aluminum to be removed. Multiple holes make this process easier. If your holes are not big enough, you can enlarge them, add more, or fill in the hollow areas so they are solid. Positioning escape holes at the opposite ends of a product (one on top, one on the bottom) will help the finishing process.

A single escape hole at the end of a cavity will not allow material in the corners near the escape hole to fully escape. So we recommend multiple escape holes at both ends of the cavity.

Clearance 0.6 mm clearance

Clearance is the space between any two parts, walls or wires.

Aluminum products are printed with a selective laser melting process that uses a laser to fuse together aluminum powder. When there is a very small gap between features or parts, partially fused powder can get stuck in between. This can prevent mechanical parts from moving, or fill in intended gaps between features.

To ensure the successful creation of your product, make the clearance between features and shells greater than the indicated minimums. If your clearance is too small, try making the gap bigger, or consider fusing the features if their independence is unnecessary. You can also try a material with a smaller minimum clearance.

Interlocking and enclosed parts? Interlocking parts are possible, but enclosed parts are not.

During the printing process, support structures are automatically generated and built around your object to prevent it from warping. These must then be removed so your product is true to the design. It is possible to create interlocking parts, but enclosed parts require support material that is impossible or very difficult to remove.

Multiple parts per model file? No.

More On Designing for Aluminum

Material Traits
Sharp edges may be rounded down

After printing, aluminum products are blasted with aluminum-oxide-powder (corundum) to clean them. That means small sharp edges will be rounded off. This process can also prevent the successful creation of complex inner geometries and mesh-like structures.

Products May Show Stepping

Depending on the shape of your model and orientation in the print tray, you might see print lines, or “stepping” phenomena, on your model, which is a natural artifact of 3D printing using the selective laser melting process. Selective laser melting printing works by printing layer by layer, and while our layers are around 0.05mm thin, there is a "step" between each layer, much like a staircase.

Edges and overhang surfaces may be rough

Supports are required for overhangs in order to avoid sagging into the loose powder below. These support structures must be removed with a tool during post-processing. Surfaces which require support structures can be rough or show small imperfections due to the removal process. The production planners do their best to orient your models optimally to minimize the amount of support structures needed. It can be helpful to understand that the more overhangs you have, the more support structures you will generally need.

Designing screws and threads

Screws or parts with threads need to be highly accurate. Printed aluminum parts cannot achieve this. Therefore, a matching screw and nut set printed with the same nominal dimensions will not fit together.

Because of the above reasons we cannot guarantee the functionality of the printed thread.

Design tips
Design hollow cavities with rounded edges

Square or angular corners on internal hollow cavities are difficult to build and clean. If your product has a hollow cavity, make the edges rounded to help ensure a successful print.

Do not design functional threads in your 3D printed model

If you need a perfect functional threaded part or screw, we recommend thread cutting after you receive your print. A machining allowance must be taken into account according to the “classic” rules of thread cutting.

Consider the accuracy of the process in your design

When designing holes, textures, small gaps or notches, and filigree details, you will need to consider tolerances based on the accuracy of the process in order for the details to function as intended. Exact sizes cannot be achieved and fine textures will lose detail.

More on Designing for Support Structures

Overhangs on aluminum parts must be reinforced by a support structure. This aluminum support structure must be removed thoroughly and carefully after the build process. The now exposed surface is very rough and requires polishing. Therefore, areas where support needs to be removed must be accessible with tools like pliers and files.

Generally, all parts can be supported, but removing support structures can be impossible if they are in areas which are inaccessible. Additionally, filigree details can often be destroyed during this process. To ensure that all support structures can be removed without damaging the part, do not create filigree complex part details, especially in inaccessible areas.

Unfortunately, we cannot provide hard guidelines here because the amount of the necessary support can only be seen in the data preparation process and varies from part to part.

Material Info

Look and feel

Aluminum has a matte grey finish. There is a subtle sparkle caused by the silicon particles in this material.

Because this material is printed with support structures that are removed during post processing, certain surfaces (where the structures were) can be slightly rougher, while the others are more smooth. The supports are required in order to avoid sagging into the loose powder below that can cause warping or imperfections in your model. Sometimes, these supports are difficult to remove and leave behind an imperfect surface. The production planners do their best to orient your models optimally to minimize the amount of support structures needed.

Shapeways’ Raw Aluminum is about 89.5% aluminum, 10% silicon, and .5% magnesium.

Accuracy

± 0.2 mm for products under 10mm in all dimensions
± 2.0% for products over 10mm in any dimension

How it's 3D printed

Aluminum is the only metal we offer that is fused and melted using a laser from a bed of metallic powder. The 3D printing process is called selective laser melting.

Fabrication takes place on a build platform with supports to anchor the part. A bed of aluminum powder sits above a build platform. One layer at a time, the powder is melted by a high powered laser. The melted powder is quickly cooled to solidify the metal. To form the next layer, the build platform is lowered and a new layer of powder is distributed with a coater. This process is repeated layer by layer until the part is complete. Horizontal areas and edges print with an automatically generated support structure to prevent the feature from sagging into loose powder. The support is then removed and polished away from the part during post-processing.

Selective laser melting is unique because the high power laser provides enough energy to heat the aluminum powder above the melting point. This process fully melts the powder rather than just sintering it, creating a solid, homogenous aluminum alloy.

Technical documents

Disclaimer:
Please note that the 3D printed products are intended for decorative purposes. They are not suited to be used as toys or to be given to underage children. The products should not come into contact with electricity and be kept away from heat. Our materials, except for Porcelain, are not food safe.
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