SLM is the next type of 3D Printing I want to introduce you guys to, SLM is the acronym for Selective Laser Melting it is the same as DLMS or Direct Laser Metal Sintering.
This is a very high end AM method and is mostly only used by huge companies in the Aerospace and Medical fields.
The development of the SLM Technology was started by a German research project held by a group of Fraunhofer Institute ILT in 1995.
The process is very similar to the other previous methods in that is starts with a 3D CAD file that needs to be brought into special software to “slice” the file and give exact parameters to each layer and this gets fed into the machine to start “Printing”.
But this is the same as SLS you might say, yes it is similar but unlike SLS with the SLM Process it fully melts the Metal Raw material powder into a 3D – dimensional part.
A layer of Fine Metallic Powder is spread onto a steel plate evenly, then each 2D Layer Slice image is intensively fused to the previous layer by applying very high levels of laser energy that is directed at the powdered plate. The energy of laser is so intense that metal powder melts fully and forms a solid object. This cycle is repeated over and over until the object is complete.
This Technology is used very often for parts that have complex geometry with hidden voids or thin walls. That is why industries like the aerospace use it because they are able to manufacture lighter and stronger parts that is not possible with other manufacturing techniques due to tooling and Physical Access problems.
A few materials that is commonly used for SLM is Titanium, Stainless Steel, Aluminium and Cobalt Chrome
I am hoping we will be able to start getting home versions of this technology soon but due to the High end Lasers and Material costs this requires a lot more certifications and approvals to become commercially viable.