Simplifying Additive Manufacturing Technique
While many people may focus on the developments of the 3D printers that may one day sit on our desks, those are not the only example of additive manufacturing. Systems to make melt parts by selectively melting metal powders also are being developed and present some interesting challenges. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory though have developed a new approach for determining the optimal parameters for this technique, which could make it more efficient and effective.
Selective Laser Melting (SLM) works by scanning a laser over metal powder. The energy of the laser heats and melts the powder, creating a pool that will cool to form the desired structure. One of the issues is that voids may exist in the resulting structure, and those voids may lead to serious failures. Also there are a number of variables involved, such as laser power, scan speed, and powder thickness that can all impact the process. To address these issues, the researchers use simple simulations that are focused on predicting the dimensions of the melt pool, given certain parameters. By collecting data on many single-track experiments, the values needed to produce more complicated, high-density parts can be determined.
Though the research paper just looks at a specific kind of stainless steel (316L) the approach could be applied for many other metal powders. Eventually this could lead to more advanced SLM systems that can build parts with carefully designed properties, not too unlike what more advanced 3D printers allow.