Selective Laser Melting – SLM
Selective Laser Melting – SLM is an additive manufacturing technique that can print metal parts in 3D, where a laser is used to melt metallic powder in specific places. Further, SLM uses a laser to melt successive layers of metallic powder, where the laser heats-up particles in specified places on a bed of metallic powder based on the 3D CAD, where the CAD file dictates where melting will occur. Then, the machine will successively add another bed of powder above the melted layer, until the object is finished. Different materials are available with SLM technology; namely, steel, titanium, aluminum, cobalt-chromium, and nickel alloys.
Reduction of weight results in reduction of energy consumption. SLM technology helps aerospace industries to use multiple material and an open system to go for many design changes and to get a specific solution. SLM technology becomes more financially viable if one can reduce the post manufacturing processes currently used in conventional manufacturing processes; such as welding by combining a couple of parts into one single part that could be printed in one-shot.
SLM technology is already being used commercially with many metallic biomaterials; such as, titanium alloys, Cobalt-chromium alloys, and stainless steel. For applications in the medical industry; Joint replacement comes to mind; especially knees and hips in orthopedic surgery in addition to bore replacement in dental, oral, or maxilla-facial surgeries. In addition to individual implants, highly specialized surgical instruments and spinal fusion cages with enhanced functions can be manufactured using SLM.
When time is money and money is time, SLM brings great opportunity to create wings to one’s creativity. Be it a tail lights for Limousine or racing parts, SLM can be cost effective and time efficient; especially for hard-to-source obsolescence items.