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Nikon SLM’s 900th Metal 3D Printer Goes to Safran

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Can you believe Nikon SLM Solutions has already delivered its 900th metal 3D printer? It seems like just yesterday that the laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) system manufacturer was disrupting the additive manufacturing (AM) industry with the reveal of a 12-laser metal 3D printer, kicking off the Laser Wars. Now, the company has announced the delivery of its 900th unit, to be installed at the Safran Additive Manufacturing Campus (SAMC) for serial production of qualified aircraft engine parts. This is significant not just for Nikon SLM but as an indicator of the LPBF sector as a whole.

Launch of SLM Solutions' NXG XII 600 machine. The SLM Solutions’ NXG XII 600 machine. Image courtesy of SLM Solutions

The NXG XII 600’s deployment is primarily driven by the development of a complex aluminum part designed specifically for integration into next-generation aircraft engine demonstrators. Nikon SLM Solutions has also tailored the machine’s parameters specifically for Aluminum AlSi7Mg0.6, aligning them with Safran’s standards for serial production of qualified parts. In turn, the partners developed a meticulous protocol for the NXG XII 600 that is meant to ultimately establish new benchmarks in the aerospace industry.

François-Xavier Foubert, General Manager of Safran Additive Manufacturing Campus, commented, “This first NXG XII 600 is a pivotal asset in Safran’s pursuit towards decarbonated aviation, underlining our ambition to contribute to reach carbon neutrality by 2035.”

Sam O’Leary, CEO of Nikon SLM Solutions, reflected on this partnership, stating, “This delivery marks not just a transaction, but a testament to our shared vision for the future of additive manufacturing. With the NXG XII 600, we’re enabling Safran to harness record production capabilities, paving the way for innovative advancements in aviation.”

There are a number of aspects to this story that make it so newsworthy. While the sale of even one such machine represents more than $1 million going toward SLM’s bottom line, the sheer quantity of metal 3D printers delivered by the company is a testament to the quality of the equipment.

With initial development led by Divergent Technologies, the NXG XII is designed for the serial production of parts, utilizing so many energy sources and a substantial build area to increase throughput to a level that is necessary for these high value applications. When this technology kicked off the Laser Wars, questions were raised about how quality could be maintained while managing so many lasers and, thus, so many complex variables within the build. After all, it is this exact issue that has been a thorn in the side of LPBF technology as a production technology.

Nikon SLM has now delivered not just a metal 3D printers, but a few shy of 1,000, demonstrating that the company has more than nailed down the technology. Surely, managing such a large array of energy sources within a complex build environment will lead to occasional or even frequent issues, but not to the extent that they significantly hinder the productivity of such valuable equipment. In other words, the premise behind the Laser Wars that more lasers equal more productivity seems to have been proven.

Nikon SLM has been leading the charge in this space, but it is not the only one and, if that business can do it, so too can its competitors. This includes Velo3D in the U.S., as well as EPlus3D, Bright Laser Technologies, and Farsoon in China. These Chinese firms, in particular, have boasted the ability to cram up to 25 lasers into their machines. They may not have yet delivered 900 of these many-laser printers to customers, but it’s only a matter of time before they do.

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