This category is for discussing the hardware that goes into the 3D Metal Printer. This includes the material handling hardware (e.g. powder spreaders and wire feeds).

The Frame: The frame pulls all of the printer subsystems together into one modular design. When printing with materials that are volatile at high temperatures in the presence of oxygen (e.g. Titanium) the frame will need to provide an inert oxygen free atmosphere.


The Z-Axis is underneath the build area and must move down a specified amount (under 100 microns) per build layer. This is generally

achieved through a stepper motor and ball screw assembly. This method can achieve very accurate Z-Axis movement. The precision of the

Z-Axis determines the precision of the powder layers and therefore the resolution of the printed part.



However the Z-Axis and powder roller must be built to very high precision. This is because we are dealing with extremely small layers.

Any uneven parts will cause one section of the powder bed to be thicker than the other disrupting the quality of the printed parts.

Knowledge about machining and metal work will be very useful when building the Metalbot frame. For those who do not have access to machining

equipment, there are many online services that will take CAD data and machine parts to you exact specifications​
Please visit the frame forum to add your thoughts!

To discuss hardware and frame design choices please head over to the Hardware and Frame forum.


Goal Popular Solutions Status
Frame Material Steel Chassie Pending Community Choice
Gas proofing Metal Cladding Pending Community Choice
Viewing Port Protective Glass/ Internal Camera Pending Community Choice
Inert Atmosphere Argon/Nitrogen Pending Community Choice
Target Layer Thickness <100um Pending Community Approval
Target Granule Size <30um Pending Community Approval
Powder Spreading Mechanism Roller/Blade Pending Community Choice
Powder Handling Motors Stepper Pending Community Approval
Powder Bed Heating More Data Required  
Laser Assembly Mounting Top Down Pending Community Approval
Z-Axis assembly Ball-Screw + Stepper Motor Pending Community Approval

Design Choices

There are a few design choices that need to be made before we can clearly define which direction we want to project to go. To help make these design decisions we can break the Hardware and Frame down even further:

Material Handling

  • Choose the best method of material form: wire vs powder vs ??


Frame Design

The frame design serves two purposes:

  • Providing a gas proof environment
  • Physical Housing all of the subsystems




Define a budget for the materiasl handler and frame

The entire printer needs to be modular, this means that the frame design should make it easy to have access to the major components to make it easy for repairs and party replacement (as we are not commercial we can escape planned obselecence). The frame must house the laser, laser power supply, laser scanner head as well as the build area and powder system.​



Powder System

  • Powder Input
  • Powder Hoppers
    • Single
    • Dual
  • Powder Roller/spreader/blades?
  • Powder/material Recycling
  • Getting an Even Powder Distribution on each Layer
  • Documenting How to Handle Powders Safely
  • Developing an Efficient Powder Recycling System
  • Working out Dimensions for the Powder Containers
  • Powder beds
    • Ceramic vs metal powder beds


  • Designing a Gas-Tight Build Chamber
  • Designing a Powder Proof build area and Z-Axes
    • Z-Axis stepper motors (ball screws)
  • Designing a Rack Type System for Enclosing the Equipment
  • Frame Materials
  • Mounting the electronics and metal consolidators
  • Metalwork

Wire Feed

  • Powder Spreading vs Wire feeds

Sourcing Parts and Equipment

If you have found a place to source parts and equipment please add it to the Hardware and Frames parts and Equipment MEGA info Index here: viewtopic$%

This greatly helps toward our eventual bill of materials

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