With the development of 3D Printing technologies and the extensive range of 3D Printing materials, we have seen lots of different 3D Printing services such as SLA, SLS, and MJF. But all these technologies mentioned above are not intended to create metal parts. How 3D Printing produce metal parts, and what are the features of those metal parts? In this article, we will take a look at one of the metal 3D Printing technologies - SLM.
3D Printing is an additive manufacturing process that create a 3D object by adding materials layer by layer, which was considered suitable for production and rapid prototyping in the 1980s. After more than 30 years development of 3D Printing, there are many 3D Printing technologies emerged. Besides, more and more 3D Printing materials have been applied. There is no doubt that metal 3D Printing plays an important role nowadays in manufacturing industries, for example, SLM 3D Printing. Similar to some metal 3D Printing, SLM printing is the technology that heats and melts a bed of metal powder layer by layer to create metal parts eventually. Speaking of the history of SLM, it was developed from SLS 3D Printing technology in the 1990s because of the popularization of high-power laser. And now SLM has been utilized in various industries, including aerospace, automobile, and medical industry.
SLM, also known as selective laser melting, is one of additive manufacturing technologies that use metal powder for rapid prototyping. The SLM printed parts feature a lot of advantages: about perfect density, smooth surface finish, high precision, and good mechanical properties, which make the parts can be used directly with less post-processing. So, what are the benefits of SLM solutions 3D Printing so that it can make such good metal parts?
1. The beam quality of laser melting 3D Printing is good. The materials can aboard appropriate energy from the focused laser light. So, the functional parts can have higher dimensional accuracy and better surface roughness.
2. The process of SLM is to melt metal powder completely. The directly manufactured metal parts can have a metallurgical bonding structure with high density and good mechanical properties.
4. The printing material is flexible. The metal powder can be one single type or a combination one, while there is no necessary to specially formulate the raw materials.
However, there are disadvantages for SLM.
1. SLM printer are quite expensive. Not everyone can afford one SLM printer because the price is from thousand to million dollars.
2. It is only suitable for small parts with complex structures. As CNC Machining and Sheet Metal Fabrication can be options of producing metal parts with affordable price, if the part is big with simple structure, SLM is not the best option.
3. Limited material. Not so many materials can be applied for SLM. Besides, the printing environment is strict for SLM Printing process.
The same as other 3D Printing technologies, it is necessary to prepare the STL files for your 3D designs before SLM Printing. And next we will talk about SLM 3D Printing process step by step.
Step 1. STL files are all set and details are checked carefully to make sure the files are suitable for printing.
Step 2. SLM printer is ready, and the powder roller is rolling down the first layer of metal powder. And the laser light will select a zone and melt the powder together based on the 3D design surface from STL file. The first layer is shaped.
Step 3. The print bed goes down, and the powder roller rolls down a new layer of metal powder, and laser light keep working on the selective zone. And keep the process going until the parts are done.
Step 4. Waiting to cool down and then remove the powder on the printed part.
Step 5. Finally, take the SLM printed parts out of the box.
Step 6. The parts will send to post-processing if necessary.
Image Source: researchgate
As one of the most exciting 3D Printing technologies, SLM 3D Printing draws attentions from various industries. Let’s see a few examples of SLM applications.
1. Automobile. SLM printed parts can be used as automobile parts, it is an ideal solution for rapid prototyping, custom parts or small batch production for high value products.
2. Medical industry. Medical equipment or component can be produced by SLM metal printing, such as stents and prothesis.
3. Aerospace. As SLM 3D Printing produces light-weight parts, it is not surprise that aerospace applies SLM printed parts, like air ducts and Ti64 parts.
SLM 3D Printing is the latest service in Wenext that launch in March 2022. As a manufacturing bureau, Wenext provides a whole solution from order to after sales services. You can upload STL files on our website’s instant quoting engine and check the price of SLM 3D Printing service. After receiving the files, Wenext will help you access that if the files are printable regarding thickness, size, and supports, and share advices to make sure successful printing. Then we will produce and deliver the printed parts on time. You can also capture manufacturing details online. We provide manufacturing transparency to you. With in-house manufacturing capabilities, we can deliver the SLM printed parts efficiently. Besides, we have 24H supports to solve your problem and satisfy your demands. If you are looking for high quality SLM printed parts, Wenext delivers versatile solutions. We can be your trust-worthy partner!