Industrial manufacturers continue the push to integrate SLM processes into large scale projects, especially in 3D printing and additive manufacturing with metal; in fact, they are so serious about this in Portugal that several organizations have banded together to create a consortium led by equipment manufacturer Adira Metal Forming Solutions, joined by the following:
- Instituto Superior Técnico
- Universidade Nova de Lisboa
- Faculdade de Ciência e Tecnologia
- Manuel Conceição Graça
While the power of laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) technology is undeniable, concerns regarding the strength of mechanical properties and issues with defects have caused trepidation in many of the world’s heavy-hitting manufacturers. The SLM-XL project will explore current difficulties holding manufacturing back from experiencing the benefits of LPBF, and specifically they will be working with 316L stainless steel materials being printed on Adira prototype SLM hardware. Configuring an innovative methodology for selecting parameters to successfully fabricate metal parts and enhance flexibility in design will be at the heart of this project, along with continuing development on the Adira prototype printer.
“Printing large-scaled parts with selective laser melting process provides a fast and efficient way to create low-volume parts of any length and height allowing flexibility in design and overcoming disadvantages of traditional manufacturing technologies [like] casting where modifying casting molds when the component design is changing is time consuming and cost-intensive,” states the consortium press release.
Continued challenges are present in SLM printing and LPBF machines due to loss of integrity in parts as mechanical properties wane, however, because so many users do realize the future potential there is high demand for this type of commercial hardware with larger build envelopes. Adira has advanced from the concept phase to the design phase to the prototype phase. Consortium members used their new printer to make the SLM-XL samples, and the Adira team has already shown it off in multiple exhibitions.
Along with garnering significant attention recently, the new SLM printer has already won accolades from COTEC-ANI, as they recognized the hardware for its TLM (Tiled Laser Melting) printing process technology. In furthering its success with printing industrial parts, SLM-XL will also focus on the effects of various parameters, studying the following:
- Laser power
- Scan speed
- Layer orientation
- Hatch distance
- Vector length
“The results show that to assure 99% plus density in all the building envelop of a system with 1 m3 of volume, the user needs to adjust parameters as the outer zones are reached. A methodology to perform this adjustment is proposed.
“The microstructure analysis indicates a preferential elongation of the grains in certain directions which leads to anisotropy of the mechanical properties relative to the direction of build. The mechanical tests resulted in hardness, elongation, tensile strength characteristic of 316L full hardened stainless steel.”
The 3D printing world is not giving up on SLM 3D printing, despite uncertainties; and in fact, developers and researchers around the world definitely give us the impression that they have only just begun unlocking the benefits of this particular technology so its benefits can be used in larger industrial endeavors, doggedly working to reduce issues and defects in production, creating guidelines for fabricating spare parts, and testing processing parameters in bioprinting.
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