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SLM 500 HL – The Fastest Metal 3D Printer

For the most demanding metal applications, Laser Lines have teamed up with SLM Solutions GmbH to deliver fast and precise parts from a range of metal powders. Stefan Ritt, their Export Sales and Marketing Manager, tells us how their technology is transforming metal manufacturing processes by delivering ‘impossible’ parts and why their SLM 500 HL printer is the fastest on the market.

When did SLM Solutions GmbH start 3D printing in metal?

Selective laser melting technology was invented in 1994-95 by a group including by Dr. Fockele and Dr. Schwarze and SLM Solutions signed up as a global agent for that technology in 2000. In 2008 we started designing our own machines, which include the SLM 125 HL, SLM 280 HL and the SLM 500 HL – which is currently the fastest compact metal printing machine in the industry. Laser Lines has been with us on that journey as our sole distributors in the UK since 2011.

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How is the demand for 3D metal printers growing?

It is growing very, very fast and doubling itself every year. Approximately there are just 2,000 Direct Metal Machines in the world but each year this is growing by 300-500 machines a year now – mostly within the aerospace, automotive and medical industries.

What applications can you do in 3D with metal?

The most popular application is in aerospace. SLM solutions use the finest metallic powder bed for a three-dimensional build so engineers and designers have the chance to make ‘impossible parts’. By that I mean parts that have internal undercut structures which engineers were not able to make before. They can also incorporate bionic design structures and topology optimisation: a mathematical method where you can limit material accumulation in the part only to the areas where it is needed for the strength and not just general accumulation. This is highly desirable for the aerospace industry who’s primary objective is to reduce weight.

Who is buying 3D metal printers?

Medical implants, automotive and aerospace are the three main areas. The machines can cost from £217K to £725K so it is the larger companies that are investing. However smaller companies are now taking advantage of the 3D Bureau service, which we offer through Laser Lines.

What should people be looking for in a quality 3D metal printed part?

100 percent density is vital. Customers will want a 3D metal part that they can compare with previous ways of manufacturing such as forging, milling and casting, but it is key they are aware that SLM technology is not and does not want to be a substitute for existing technologies. Our solutions let you design completely new, lightweight structures. The benefits of an SLM printed parts is that it can be more internally complex, with bionic designs and topology optimisation. You cannot do this with existing processes. It means the total process chain is different and a new approach to designing is required.

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Tell me about the SLM 500 HL?

Currently it is the lightest, fastest and most compact (in terms of outsize dimensions) 3D metal additive manufacturing (AM) machine on the market. It is the only printer to use four lasers simultaneously to achieve significant time-savings. Depending on what parameters you set, it can be 2-5 times faster than a standard one laser DMLS printer.

What potential can metal-based AM technology bring to the UK?

It’s very exciting. 100 years ago the UK was a major influence in the industrial revolution and by embracing this new technology, forward-thinking companies are making a vital step in being there again. We are getting a lot of interest from the global Formula 1 research teams who are based here in the UK.

They are looking at this technology, and although they may not necessarily buy a machine, they will use the Bureau Service. This means they now have the ability to make one-off metal parts, printed from scratch over night in one of our machines. With traditional methods they would have had to make the mould, which could take a week or two and then cast for another fortnight. So the time-savings with this new process are significant.

Do you need a metal alloy part? Do you want it faster, lighter and with less waste? Read Metal 3D Printing – A Lighter Way To Design, our blog on how metal 3D printing is bringing a fresh approach to design.

Or to, find out more about our range of SLM metal 3D printers, call the Laser Lines team on 01295 672500.

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