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Direct Metal Laser Melting - 3D Printing
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Direct Metal Laser Melting – Metal 3D Printing Services

A complete guide to direct metal laser melting. Learn all about the benefits, applications, materials, and specific industries that DMLM and DMLS offer.


Overview of DMLM

Direct Metal Laser Melting is an additive manufacturing technique also commonly known as Laser Powder Bed Fusion, Direct Metal Laser Sintering, Direct Metal Printing or Selective Laser Melting.  As the name suggests, a high-powered laser welds metallic powders into fully dense metal parts at a resolution down to 25 microns (40 layers per mm) per layer. Featuring open architecture, and a proprietary scan strategy, DMLM machines produce functional metal components without the cost and lead time of tooling. Parts created by DMLM benefit from exceptional detail, geometric design freedom, tool-free creation and direct digital production.

 

Looking for printed parts? In addition to Direct Metal Printing, we provide parts from Multi-Jet PrintingStereolithography, and Selective Laser Sintering.

 

SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE FOR A FREE CUSTOM QUOTE FOR YOUR PART! 

Direct Metal Laser Melting - 3D Printing

Benefits of DMLM

 

Geometric Freedom

Direct metal laser melting allows for complex geometries to be built in true production alloys.  Square holes, conformal channels, complex lattices and organic shapes can be built using 3d metal printing.

High-performance Parts

Unlocking geometric freedom allows for previously impossible parts to be produced.  Part consolidation, sweeping organic shapes, complex lattices and internal channels allow for improved functionality of final parts. These opportunities enable the ability to reduce component weight, offer enhanced temperature control, improved surface area to part volume ratios and in some instances allow mass customization.

Tool Free Production

What is meant by tool-free production? DMLM is generally a sound replacement for components that would need to have custom tooled developed to produce with a conventional manufacturing process such as stamping or casting. Tooling for complex geometries  for stamping or die casting can easily surpass $100,000 USD. With DMLM one can bypass tooling expenses for low-volume complex part production.

Part Consolidation

Objects are defined by their function, often that function can only be accomplished through an assembly of different parts.  Assemblies carry many hidden costs. Each part within the assembly has a specific geometric intent which must be communicated. Paperwork accompanies each part through its procurement and production.  When parts are complete, they must be individually inspected and then shipped. The individual parts then must come together for assembly. With precision parts, complex assembly aids, fixtures and jigs are often required. With proper consideration of design for additive manufacturing, metal assemblies can often be redesigned to be additively manufactured as one complete, fully-dense metal printed part. This oftentimes results in lower costs of capital required to launch a product, as well as higher functionality with fewer failure modes.

Direct Digital Production

From CAD to part is about as simple as production can get. Instead of maintaining warehouses full of spare parts and infrequently used tooling, digital production enables spare parts to be produced on demand, simply through the transfer of digital data.  Completed parts can then be scanned and automatically compared back to their digital twin, assuring highest quality.

Combining Benefits to Amplify Effectiveness

While all the above benefits provide meaningful time or monetary savings, when these benefits are combined with the design intent to produce with additive manufacturing, the benefits improve exponentially.

Applications

High-value Prototyping

The largest current application of metal 3d printing is in the production of high-value prototypes. Ideal for low-mid volume creation of parts, prototyping is often used for aesthetic evaluation and functional testing of components prior to full production launch.

Performance Tooling

Perhaps the fastest-growing segment of metal printing adoption is in the tooling industry.  Injection mold and die-cast tooling industries both benefit from designs optimized for temperature regulation.  The metal 3d printing process allows for complex internal channels to be created to help regulate temperatures of the tool during the injection process.

Direct Digital Manufacturing

Intended for low to mid-volume standardized production, or high volume mass customization, direct digital manufacturing allows one to go from CAD file to machine, to finished part.  Particularly well-suited to spare parts, today’s digital workflows allow for the keeping of a digital inventory. This style of inventory reduces warehouse space and is also referred to as on-demand manufacturing.

Industries

Transportation

The transportation industry is likely the largest user of 3d printing overall.  With direct metal laser melting, tough, durable end-use parts are able to be printed and used for functional testing and low-volume production. Examples of parts that are commonly printed in the transportation industry include:

  • Engine and Exhaust components
  • Custom housings
  • Turbo Impellers
  • Small, complex commonly stamped items.

Aerospace/Defense

The aerospace and defense industries benefit from direct metal laser sintering particularly for difficult to build components, lightweight and part-consolidation. Parts that are often candidates for metal printing in aerospace include:

  • Fuel Nozzles
  • Turbine Blades
  • Rocket Motors
  • Interior bracketry

Consumer Products

Consumer products in the modern age are largely made of plastic injection molded components.  High volume parts in this industry benefit through metal printed injection mold dies. Common items that are injection molded from metal printed molds include:

  • Building blocks
  • Cups and Bottles
  • Electronics enclosures
  • Sporting goods

Medical

The medical industry is a large adopter of direct metal laser melting for optimal patient outcomes.  The unique geometries enabled by metal printing have opened new pathways for treatment and improvement in the quality of life for people around the world. Some examples of metal printing in the medical field are:

  • Trabecular structures for orthopedics
  • Patient-specific plates and fasteners
  • Assorted surgical tools
  • Components for specialized chairs, beds, etc.

General Industry

Industry at large is beginning to reap the benefits of metal printing, as the examples above show, anywhere a complex, tool-free solution is needed, metal printing could be a viable option. Examples include:

  • Spare and replacement parts for legacy equipment
  • Custom fasteners, handles, and brackets
  • Low volume alternative to investment casting

Materials

3d-printed-parts-DMLS-4

The metal additive manufacturing process of direct metal laser melting uses a variety of fine metal powders as its feedstock. The most common varieties of these powders include: Aluminum, Titanium, Stainless Steel, Tool Steel, Inconel, Cobalt Chrome and even some precious metals. These metals are thinly spread across a metal build plate and fully melted by a fiber laser in the profile of the part. Once a layer has been welded the next layer of metal is spread over the previous layer and the process repeats. The resulting parts are fully dense and have mechanical properties exceeding that of die casting. Here are some details on the metals we print using direct metal laser melting:

Aluminum Alloys

In the aerospace and automotive industry, Aluminum alloys are used for their light weight. Both innovative approaches to mold design and specific heat exchanger applications make use of the high thermal conductivity of these alloys. With Laser Powder Bed Fusion, exceptionally thin walls can be produced, opening up new opportunities for functional design.

3D Print TechnologiesProsAlloys
Laser Powder Bed Fusion

Direct Metal Laser Melting

Direct Metal Printing

  • High thermal conductivity and strength due to silicone and magnesium alloying elements.
  • Heat treatable to fine-tune thermal and electrical characteristics. 
  • Exhibits a fine crystalline microstructure.
AlSi10Mg

AlSi12

AlSi7Mg0.6

 

Cobalt Chrome

Cobalt-chromium-molybdenum alloys are known for their high strength and hardness and retain these properties even at elevated temperatures. In addition, they spontaneously form a protective passive film, which makes Cobalt Chrome both corrosion resistant and biocompatible. These benefits make Cobalt Chrome the ideal material for medical tools and devices, molds and dies, industrial, high wear applications and parts requiring high strength at elevated temperatures.

3D Print TechnologiesProsAlloys
Laser Powder Bed Fusion

Direct Metal Laser Melting

Direct Metal Printing

  • High Strength and Hardness under elevated temperatures 
  • Wear resistance
  • Biocompatibility
CoCr

 

Nickel Alloys (Inconel)

Nickel alloys are known for their combination of high strength and excellent corrosion resistance. These alloys are the ideal material for industries where these two strengths need to come together: chemical, marine, aerospace and nuclear industry. Including: instruments, reaction vessels, tubing, heat exchangers, valves, engine exhaust systems, turbine seals, propeller blades, submarine fittings, propulsion motors, reactor core and control-rod components in nuclear water reactors.

3D Print TechnologiesProsAlloys
Laser Powder Bed Fusion

Direct Metal Laser Melting

Direct Metal Printing

  • High strength 
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Excellent cryogenic properties
Ni625

Ni718

 

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel has excellent corrosion resistance, strong mechanical properties and excellent toughness.  These alloys are sterilizable, machinable and heat treatable. They are used in everything in general metal working, automotive, marine and aerospace applications, as well as medical devices and surgical instruments.  They are suitable for structural components in extreme environments.

3D Print TechnologiesProsAlloys
Laser Powder Bed Fusion

Direct Metal Laser Melting

Direct Metal Printing

  • Toughness 
  • Strength
  • Corrosion resistance
  • High hardness
316L 

17-4PH

 

Maraging Steel (1.2709)

A genuine tool steel that is easily heat-treatable in a simple age-hardening process resulting in excellent hardness and strength, Maraging Steel has good wear resistance. In regards to post-processing, the material shows good weldability and machinability. Maraging Steel is ideal for innovative tool and mold designs including conformal cooling channels for injection molding, die casting and extrusion. The material is also used for high-performance aerospace, automotive and other industrial applications which require high strength and wear resistance.

3D Print TechnologiesProsAlloys
Laser Powder Bed Fusion

Direct Metal Laser Melting

Direct Metal Printing

  • High wear resistance
  • Good heat transfer 
  • Excellent wear resistance
Maraging Steel (1.2709)

 

Titanium Alloys

Titanium is commonly used for lightweight and high strength components such as aerospace and motor sports applications. Because of its excellent biocompatibility it is also very well suited for medical implants, tools and devices and dental prostheses.  Titanium is the ideal material for light-weight, high-strength components as required for a broad scope of parts in aerospace, sports and marine products.

3D Print TechnologiesProsAlloys
Laser Powder Bed Fusion

Direct Metal Laser Melting

Direct Metal Printing

  • Lightweight
  • High strength
  • Bio-compatibility
TiGr5 

TiGr23 

TiGr1

 

Our experience

Printing tradeshow

 

At 3D Printed Parts we bring over 75 years of combined manufacturing experience, with 5 of those years specializing in 3d printing metals with machines of different sizes and capabilities.  This experience enables us to quickly identify parts that are candidates for our process and return a quote quickly. We approach each project with the mindset of providing the best value, highest quality part with the most competitive lead time.  We evaluate every part for a quote for suitability to the process, and prepare appropriately for downstream processes and ultimately the end-use. With this process in mind, our customers can be assured that when we accept a project they will receive parts that exceed their expectations.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How does direct metal laser sintering work?

A high-powered laser welds metallic powders into fully dense metal parts at a resolution down to 25 microns (40 layers per mm) per layer. This produces functional metal components without the cost and lead time of tooling.

3d-printed-parts-Direct-metal-laser-melting-7

What is the difference between sintering and melting?

 

A material that is sintering is being compacted using a combination of heat and pressure without actually bringing the solid to a point of melting into a liquid. Melting is applying enough heat energy to a material to turn it into a liquid.

What does DMLM/DMLS stand for?

DMLM stands for direct metal laser melting or direct metal laser sintering.

Metal 3D Printers

 

 

Looking for printed parts? 

In addition to Direct Metal Printing, we provide parts from Multi-Jet Printing, Stereolithography, and Selective Laser Sintering.

 

SUBMIT YOUR PARTS TO THIS FORM TO GET A FREE QUOTE

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Metal 3D Printing & Lightweighting

 

 

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