OR Laser Releases Sub-$100K Metal 3D Printer
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on December 13, 2016 |

Now that metal additive manufacturing (AM) has been commercially available for about 20 years, the technology is beginning to evolve at a more rapid pace, particularly since giant corporations like GE have put so much skin in the game. In turn, we've seen new entrants to the industry and significant developments by established companies. For instance, Concept Laser, recently acquired by GE, announced the release of a modular and highly automated metal 3D printing factory, while a start-up called Additive Industries has begun shipping its own highly automated system.

At formnext this year, established German laser manufacturer OR Laser introduced a metal 3D printer to the industry that was unique in technology and price. With a price tag of EUR€77,000 (USD$82,000), the new ORLAS Creator may be the least expensive metal 3D printer on the market. ENGINEERING.com reached out to the firm’s CTO, Markus Wolf, to learn more.

Round and Round

Established in 1997, OR Laser currently staffs over 100 employees to manufacture laser processing and laser deposit welding platforms. Wolf explained that it had become clear to the firm that digital manufacturing was the direction the industry was heading in.

“More and more enterprises are focusing on digital manufacturing, and 3D printing is fast becoming a major part of the movement,” Wolf said. “The opportunities that lie in the application of the latest 3D-printing technologies, especially in direct metal deposition and powder bed-based applications, are particularly fascinating for all kind of production processes and are still largely unexplored. These technologies inherit an enormous potential and will push along the development of the future production environments of manufacturers.”

The ORLAS Creator is a petite metal 3D printer with a sub-$100,000 price tag. (Image courtesy of OR Laser.)
The ORLAS Creator is a petite metal 3D printer with a sub-$100,000 price tag. (Image courtesy of OR Laser.)

OR Laser then worked on its own brand of metal 3D printing, a new form of directed energy deposition. Attached to a 250 W fiber laser with a spot of just 40µm is a powder nozzle, which sprays metal particles into the beam, fusing them onto the substrate.

In addition to the novel powder feed mechanism, the Creator features a circular build volume of Ø 100 mm x 110 mm. Though petite, OR Laser claims that the build rate is a significant 30 percent faster than similar technologies. This is in part due to a specialty powder recoater mechanism.

“We have a unique solution for the coating process,” Wolf said. “A circulating coater moves the powder from the powder platform to the building platform. The coater is performs a complete 360-degree rotation. With this approach, we achieve a very fast and efficient coating process which is faster than the standard process on comparable SLM devices.”

The Creator features a circular recoater blade that allows for quicker recoating and a printing process that is 30 percent faster than selective laser melting technologies. (Image courtesy of OR Laser/YouTube.)
The Creator features a circular recoater blade that allows for quicker recoating and a printing process that is 30 percent faster than selective laser melting technologies. (Image courtesy of OR Laser/YouTube.)

The build area is also adjustable in such a way that, if the user is producing a smaller component, the area can be made smaller. That way, excess powder won't be wasted, resulting in cost and material savings.

Other features include a tablet with a graphical user interface that can control an array of Creator systems together. OR Laser has also whipped up its own slicing software, the ORLAS Suit, which is meant to be a powerful and easy-to-use CAD/CAM solution for laser material processing.


The Creator is designed to be open concept, in that OR Laser will provide users with a variety of process parameters for different powders from third-party manufacturers. Unlike selective laser sintering, the Creator fully melts metal particles so that the resulting parts are fully dense and don't require any heat treatment. Like most other metal printing techniques, support structures must be removed through typical post-processing techniques, such as CNC machining, and the parts can be finished with standard surface treatments.

Parts printed on the ORLAS Creator. (Image courtesy of OR Laser/YouTube.)
Parts printed on the ORLAS Creator. (Image courtesy of OR Laser/YouTube.)

OR Laser's Plans for the Future

OR Laser is aiming at the small and medium businesses that previously may not have had access to costly metal 3D printing technology. “Currently, we are focusing on small devices. We believe that the market is waiting for an affordable and easy-to-use 3D metal printer,” Wolf explained.

Future upgrades are also already in the works. Though the current quality control mechanism for the Creator is visually based, the firm will introduce automation to the machine in the future. “Our next steps in the development will be an automated process monitoring and control of the process parameters like spot size, laser power, etc.,” Wolf said. “To achieve this, we are currently preparing cooperation with a university partner in Southern Germany.”

The Creator also uses a cartridge method for containing printing feedstock, but Wolf said that this idea will be expanded upon. “We plan a smart cartridge concept which allows for swift and safe metal powder exchange.”

After the big debut at formnext, OR Laser is prepping to ship units out the door. The company will begin delivering Creator machines in the second quarter of 2017. To learn more about the ORLAS Creator, visit the product page


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