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Between the Layer Lines: Understanding Material Nuances from Metal 3D Printing

- December 20, 2017

Between the Layer Lines: Understanding Material Nuances from Metal 3D Printing

3D printing with metals has never been more accessible to the manufacturing community. Each material adds a unique range of mechanical properties to broaden perfect-fit applications using 3D metal printing. Maneuvering the differences between metals, especially metals with similar properties, will better suit you in the long run when picking a metal for your project. Nuances between a few readily available stainless steel compositions – namely, Stainless Steel 17-4Ph and Stainless Steel 316L – impact project readiness and are critical to note.

The Scoop on the Scope of DMLS Metals

DMLS is an additive manufacturing process which 3D prints metal parts. Laser energy melts powder metals in an enclosed build chamber, layer by layer, to result in fully realized parts; imagine fine metallic sand is being zapped by space lasers, shooting out sparks of stardust as it melts designs (at least, that’s what it looks like to us). Metals Stratasys Direct Manufacturing 3D prints with include Stainless Steel 17-4PH, Stainless Steel 316L, Aluminum AlSi10Mg, Nickel Alloy 625, Nickel Alloy 718, Titanium Ti64, and Cobalt Chrome CoCrMo.

Nickel Alloy 625, Nickel Alloy 718, Titanium Ti64, and Cobalt Chrome CoCrMo are best suited for high-end, production applications. These metals will typically perform with higher tensile strengths. Aluminium AlSi10Mg can build faster than other DMLS materials. While it has good thermal properties, strength and hardness, its speed has made it a favorite among lower cost prototypes. Titanium Ti64 meets ASTM F1472 requirements. It is most commonly applied to complex aerospace designs, like engines and turbines. Cobalt Chrome CoCrMo, which has a history of meeting ISO specs for biocompatibility, has excellent corrosion resistance and is more favored for medical and dental prototypes. Nickel Alloy 625 and Nickel Alloy 718 meet identical hardness and temperature performances, with 718 yielding slightly higher for strength.

A Tale of Two Steels


Stainless Steel 17-4PH & 316L Comparison Chart
Stainless Steel 17-4PH Stainless Steel 316L
Magnetic Non-magnetic
Strengthening through Heat Treatment Cannot undergo Heat Treatment
Good Hardness Good Ductility
Good Corrosion Resistance Higher Corrosion Resistance
Good Weldability Excellent Weldability
Slower Build Time
(can impact cost)
Faster Build Time
(can be more cost effective)

Stainless Steel 17-4PH


  • Performs well in high strength applications requiring above average hardness mechanical properties
  • Can be heat treated to improve strength and hardness, and exceed the hardness properties of Stainless Steel 316L
  • Magnetic

  • Builds slightly slower than 316L

  • Magnetic applications
  • Small parts
  • Protoypes
  • End-use spare parts

Stainless Steel 316L

  • Higher ductility than Stainless Steel 17-4PH
  • Non-magnetic
  • Higher corrosion resistance
  • Excellent for general purpose prototyping
  • More ideal for welding applications
  • Faster build time

  • Cannot undergo heat treatment

  • Consumer goods
  • Food processing
  • Chemical processing
  • Marine and medical devices

Mechanical Properties of Stainless Steel 17-4PH & 316L

Material Description Product Options
Ultimate Tensile Strength Yield Strength Elongation at Break Modulus of Elasticity Hardness Maximum Operating Temperature Thermal Conductivity Coefficient of Thermal Expansion
Stainless Steel 17-4 PH
Excellent weld-ability & corrosion resistance; Cost effective DMLS SD 142 ± 7 ksi
(980 ± 50 MPa)
73 ± 7 ksi
(500 ± 50 MPa)
25 ± 5% 25 ± 3 msi
(170 ± 20 GPa)
230 ± 20 HV1 ~1022 °F
(~550 °C)
97 Btu in/(h ft2 °F/in)
(14 W/m°C)
7.8 x 10-6in/in°F
(14 x 10-6m/m°C)
Stainless Steel 316L Excellent weld-ability, corrosion resistance & ductility DMLS SD 93 ± 7 ksi
(640 ± 50 Mpa)
77 ± 8.7 ksi
(530 ± 60 Mpa)
40 ± 15 % - typ. 85 HRB - - -


Design Tips for DMLS

DMLS parts built with Stainless Steel 17-4PH and 316L achieve layer thickness, or resolution, as small as 40-60 microns on the Z axis, with minimum feature sizes around 0.012” – 0.016”. Minimum recommended wall thickness for these materials is 0.012” – 0.016” and minimum hole diameter is 0.035” – 0.045”. When designing for DMLS, keep in mind that angles below 45° will require build supports; Stratasys Direct Manufacturing build engineers will apply supports for designs and arrange designs on the build platform to assure the best build is achieved. Standard tolerances for DMLS are ± 0.005” for the first inch and ± 0.002”/” thereafter.

DMLS prototypes and end-use components and parts offer a more affordable method to reach complex designs for metal applications. Visit our materials page to learn more about the DMLS metals and their mechanical properties.