SLM (Selective Laser Melting) : 3D Printing Metal

Selective Laser Melting is an additive manufacturing technique that can print metal parts in 3D. A laser is used to melt metallic powder in specific places.

Selective laser melting
Selective Laser Melting Process Illustration

Selective Laser Melting Process

Selective laser melting uses a laser to melt successive layers of metallic powder.

The laser will heat particles in specified places on a bed of metallic powder until completely melted. The CAD 3D file dictates where melting will occur.

Then, the machine will successively add another bed of powder above the melted layer, until the object is completely finished.

Selective Laser Melting Applications

The most common applications for this technology are in the aerospace industry, as complex parts can be made with additive manufacturing, which overcomes the limitations of conventional manufacturing. It can also result in the reduction of parts needed.

It also has applications in the medical field where some prosthetics are created with this technology, allowing the model to be customised to the patient’s anatomy.

Manufacturing metallic parts by 3D printing can also be donewith DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) technology. The main difference between these two technologies is the degree to which the particles are melted; they are not completely melted with DMLS.

Different materials are available with this technology, namely steel, titanium, aluminium, cobalt-chromium and nickel alloys.

This patented technology was discovered in 1995 by the German research instituteFraunhofer Institute ITL. The primary manufacturer of machines using this technology is Germany’s SLM solution GmbH. To see where this technology fits within the range of professional printers, your can browse our guide to professional printers.