3D Printing Process

Selective Laser Melting

Selective laser melting produces 3D printed metal parts by using a powerful laser to melt powdered metal together.

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What is Selective Laser Melting?

Selective laser melting (SLM), also called laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) or direct metal laser melting (DMLM), is an additive 3D printing process that uses a high power laser to melt metal powders. The laser melts and fuses the metal powder in layers, creating end products that are comparable to those manufactured via traditional subtractive machining processes.

Selective laser melting takes place in a chamber where the metal powder is thinly spread in layers. As the laser fuses the powder, more powder is coated on the surface of the layer to be fused next. This process is repeated until the part is finished. The end result will have a rough surface finish, so secondary processes may be necessary for the desired finish.

Selective laser melting is commonly confused with a similar 3D printing process, selective laser sintering (SLS). The difference between the two is in how the material powder is heated. SLM melts the powder completely, while SLS heats it up to a temperature where it fuses together. When the powder is melted using SLM, it is able to form into a more solid, less porous product, where SLS is more porous, and in turn, weaker.

Advantages

  • Create complex parts with sharp inside corners and enclosed features not reachable by CNC tooling.
  • Short lead times because specialized tooling is not required.
  • Ability to optimize designs to remove the need for assembly.
  • Relatively low cost compared to other 3D printing processes.

Applications

  • Automotive Industry.
  • Ducts.
  • Fixtures.
  • Tools and molds for injection molding.
  • Complex, high-value pieces.

Resources

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