Selective laser melting (SLM) is a powerful technology that shapes any desired metal part geometry by melting metal powder layer by layer. Using this digital approach, the optimum shape of complex parts can be produced in a single manufacturing step. Such a part not only delivers better performance, it is also more reliable than the complicated assembly it replaces. Furthermore, SLM technology is the right choice for small metal products, of which thousands can be produced simultaneously. In addition to countless industrial applications, the technology can be used for revolutionary orthopedic, maxillofacial and dental implants. The key concept is to produce high-grade parts in any preferred metal alloy using less material and no scrap, reducing unit weight by up to 80%.
Metal cutting, milling, EDM and other high-quality and efficient metalworking processes have a respectable track record on the production floor. Typical for these subtractive methods is that each, in their own way, is limited in removing part material despite many tools and accessories.
Design engineers know metalworking processes inside out and take into account their specific limitations up front. They design new parts knowing the limitations of the production method that will be applied. It would be better if they could concentrate on the functionality of the part to be produced. The geometric limitations of successive metalworking processes force designers to make choices that devaluate the functionality of the part or lead to a complicated assembly instead.