How are New Technologies Benefitting 3D Metal Printing

3D metal printing uses new technologies to reduce the time necessary for developing large-volume metal parts. 

FREMONT, CA : SLEDM stands for selective LED-based melting, which refers to the targeted melting of metal powder using high-power LED light sources. It is also the name of the latest technology developed for 3D metal printing with a team managed by Franz Haas, head of the Institute of Production Engineering at TU Graz.

The technique is similar to selective laser melting (SLM) and electron beam melting (EBM), where the metal powder is melted using a laser or electron beam and then made-up layer by layer into a component. SLEDM, on the other hand, addresses two main issues with powder bed-based manufacturing methods: the time-consuming development of large-volume metal parts and the lengthy manual post-processing.

Reduced production time

Unlike the SLM and EBM processes, the SLEDM method melts the metal powder with a high-power LED beam. A lighting specialist from west Styria specially modified the light-emitting diodes utilized for the project.

Preworks are configured with a complicated lens system that allows the LED focus's diameter to be easily adjusted during the melting process between 0.05 and 20 millimeters. It allows for the melting of more significant quantities per unit of time without the need for internal filigree structures, resulting in a reduction in the manufacturing time of components for fuel cells or medical technology, for example, by a factor of 20 on average.

Tedious reworking is no longer necessary

In comparison to other metal melting plants, this technology is paired with a newly built manufacturing plant that adds the part from top to bottom. As a result, the component is exposed, the amount of powder needed is reduced to a minimum, and necessary post-processing can be done during the printing procedure. 

Fields of application and further plans

The SLEDM method's demonstrator is already being considered in the K-Project CAMed of the Medical University of Graz, where the first laboratory for medical 3D printing opened in October 2019. The technique can build bioresorbable metal implants, such as screws made of magnesium alloys for bone fractures. When the fracture site has healed, these implants dissolve in the body. As a result, a second procedure, which is often stressful for people, is no longer required.