Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed a new and more efficient approach to a challenging problem in additive manufacturing — using selective laser melting, namely, the selection of appropriate process parameters that result in parts with desired properties.

The method, based on simple simulations and experiments, identifies optimal parameters to print 3D high-density metal parts.

Selective laser melting (SLM) is a powder-based, additive manufacturing process where a 3D part is produced, layer by layer, using a high-energy laser beam to fuse the metal powder particles.

The simulations are used to compute the dimensions of the melt pool, which is the pool of liquid formed when the laser melts the metal powder particles.

"We mine the simulation output to identify important SLM parameters and their values such that the resulting melt pools are just deep enough to melt through the powder into the substrate below," said Chandrika Kamath, an LLNL researcher. "By using the simulations to guide a small number of single-track experiments, we can quickly arrive at parameter values that will likely result in high-density parts."

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