WHAT IS SELECTIVE LASER MELTING?
Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is a method of applying additive processes to metal, and is also sometimes referred to as Powder Bed Fusion.
Much like other forms of 3D printing, a printable CAD file is selected, sliced using the desired settings and uploaded to the printer. Within a build envelope containing a controlled atmosphere made up of inert gases (Argon or Nitrogen) and minimal oxygen (500 parts per million or less), a thin layer of atomized metal particles are distributed (coated using a re-coater blade) evenly on the build plate, and a high powered laser fully melts the metal in the exact areas dictated by the model. The next layer is set and the printer continues to melt and fuse each layer until the print is completed.
Parts can be manufactured using stainless steel, tool steel, titanium, cobalt, chrome, inconel, aluminum, and a wide variety of other metals.
The SLM print process produces objects that are very dense and strong, especially when compared to other printing media like binder jetting. This means that SLM can produce functional prototypes as well as end use components with reduced post processing requirements.
As has been discussed elsewhere, the greatest benefit of additive when compared to conventional manufacturing, is design freedom. The layer by layer process allows for the production of complex and organic geometries, further enhancements to production processes like lightweighting, producing integrated components or parts with internal features that cannot otherwise be produced using conventional production methods.
For more information about Metal 3D Printing, feel free to check out our Mind of Metal blog articles:
- Mind of Metal: Lightweighting
- Mind of Metal: Post Processing
- Mind of Metal: Aluminum
- Mind of Metal: Inconel
We will be adding incrementally to the Mind of Metal series, so join our Newsletter to stay apprised.
COMPARING SLM TO OTHER PRINTING METHODS
So, you likely have a good understanding of what the benefits of additive are compared to conventional, but what are the pros and cons of SLM when compared to other 3D printing media?
- Large range of materials
- Ability to tune or adjust properties
- Increased functionality
- Relatively low cost
- High resolution (near net shaped components)
- High quality control
- Reduced post processing requirements
- Size restricted to build volume
- High power requirements
SLM IN INDUSTRY
SLM is being used in an increasing range of industries across the globe, with companies small to large redefining their products to make them more efficient and effective. Some common areas of application include:
Air ducts, fixtures or mountings holding specific aeronautic instruments, laser-sintering fits both the needs of commercial and military aerospace
- AUTOMOTIVE AND TRANSPORTATION
The combination of material density and additive design flexibility is allowing car manufacturers and parts providers across the world to reinvent auto parts ranging from pistons to brake calipers in innovative ways and with surprising results.
SLM can serve niche markets with low volumes at competitive costs. It is independent of economies of scale which liberates the user from achieving batch size optimization.
Medical devices are highly precise, complex, high value products. This leads to a multitude of varieties and thus small volumes of the variants offered.
Digital technologies are seeing considerable growth in dentistry, redefining the methods and speed with which dental products can be customized to suit customer needs and delivered.
The direct process eliminates tool-path generation and multiple machining processes such as EDM. Tool inserts are built overnight or even in just a few hours. Also the freedom of design can be used to optimize tool performance, for example by integrating conformal cooling channels into molding
….and so much more
i3D AND EPLUS3D SLM PRINTERS
i3D works with Eplus3D to offer a full and premium line of SLM printers.
Eplus3D was founded in 2014 and is composed of a core technical team that boasts more than 25 years of research and development in additive manufacturing technologies experience. As well as having developed one of the most efficient and effective SLM systems, they have been leading the way in application research, helping customers realize their goals in a wide range of industries including Aerospace, Automotive, Tooling, Health, Dental, Consumer Goods, Precision Manufacturing, etc.
Eplus3D has branch offices in North America, Europe, Asia and South America and with it’s distribution network offers premium customer service and support to AM customers in over 40 countries.
The Eplus3D EPM series of printers is a broad line that offers customers variable size, build and costing options but all EPM printers offer:
The EPM series offers the best control software available for SLM printing to give users maximum options and quality.
The EPM series is powder agnostic, and can be equipped and operated with software of choice.
The EPM series is designed to provide the best, uninterrupted prints in the most intuitive, easy to use process
- COST EFFICIENT
For what it offers, the EPM series is the most cost efficient SLM printer currently available.
The Eplus application and technical engineers are among the best in the world and constantly available to provide assistance
i3D and Eplus3D’s collaborative customer oriented approach that includes services, tailored to each customer’s diverse needs offering advanced training, consulting, technical service, process optimization, machinery status, monitoring and analysis, application development and certification, adopting Industry 4.0 developments to realize the smart Additive Manufacturing factory of the future.