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SLM Options to develop “world’s largest” metallic 3D printer for the US Air Power


Laser Powder Mattress Fusion (LPBF) system producer SLM Options has introduced plans to develop the “world’s largest” metallic 3D printer on behalf of the US Air Power (USAF). 

Having been subcontracted by the Concurrent Applied sciences Company (CTC), SLM Options now goals to construct a model of its NXG XII 600 3D printer with a 1.5-meter Z-axis. By way of creating what will likely be known as the ‘NXG XIIE,’ the CTC says it might be attainable to “overcome the bounds of present additive manufacturing gear,” on the subject of creating lengthy elements with crucial protection functions.

“Partnering with the CTC, a premier analysis and improvement firm, will assist us obtain the objective of making a brand new AM functionality,” stated SLM Options CEO Sam O’Leary. “We look ahead to collaborating on an AM machine that may work a lot quicker than current gear and have the biggest construct envelope within the business by far.”

The SLM Solutions NXG XII 600 3D printer. Image via SLM Solutions.
The SLM Options NXG XII 600 3D printer. Picture by way of SLM Options.

SLM Options in large-format AM 

In subcontracting its USAF mission to SLM Options, the CTC has chosen to companion with a Selective Laser Melting specialist that’s skilled in creating its personal massive quantity machines. At Formnext Join, for instance, SLM Options unveiled the NXG XII 600, a 600 x 600 x 600 mm capability system, which could be fitted with as much as 12 lasers, enabling it to deal with demanding aerospace use instances. 

Alongside the NXG XII 600, the corporate additionally markets its SLM 125, SLM 280, SLM 500 and SLM 800 3D printers, the bigger of which proceed to seek out adoption on this space. Earlier this yr, Rolls Royce ordered two extra SLM 500s, machines it makes use of to 3D print combustor tiles for Pearl 10X engines, energy items that are set to fly with the Falcon 10X personal jet from 2025. 

In April 2021, SLM Options revealed that it had labored with Safran Touchdown Methods as properly, to 3D print light-weight touchdown gear elements. Utilizing an SLM 800, the corporations had been capable of fabricate a large-format nostril piece in a means that accelerated the qualification course of, whereas enabling the speedy iteration of various prototypes to establish the perfect design. 

Regardless of Nikon launching an SLM Options takeover bid simply weeks in the past, in a deal that might quickly see the agency change possession, it now seems its plans haven’t modified, and it goals to proceed pushing the boundaries of PBF in aerospace. 

A piece of nose landing gear that was produced using an SLM 800 3D printer.
SLM Options’ SLM 800 3D printer was used to provide a novel piece of touchdown gear in April 2021. Picture by way of SLM Options.

A $5.2M US Air Power mission 

SLM Options has obtained concerned within the USAF’s newest 3D printing initiative due to the CTC, which having gained a $5.2 million contract to develop a brand new machine by the US Air Power Analysis Laboratory (AFRL), has tasked the agency with creating it. 

A specialist in scientific R&D, the CTC is a non-profit with shut ties to the Enterprise Ventures Company, a company that works to assist start-ups transition superior applied sciences to market. Between them, the businesses have over 400,000 sq. ft of workplace, lab and high-bay house, in addition to cutting-edge product design, improvement, testing, prototyping and manufacturing services. 

In consequence, the pair have the capability to fulfill US Division of Protection necessities on the fabrication of large-scale, first-of-a-kind prototype constructions, they usually typically deploy this in support of US authorities, personal business and public R&D packages. Shifting forwards, having gained AFRL funding, the CTC plans to make the most of these services alongside SLM Options, to develop the “world’s largest AM machine.”

“We’re excited to play a task on this ground-breaking AM development,” added Edward J. Sheehan Jr, CTC President and CEO. “The technical work we’re performing for this mission consists of components of CTC’s full-service portfolio of AM capabilities together with design, testing, post-processing, machining, and qualification.”

GE's Atlas 3D printer, the largest LPBF system to-date. Image via GE.
GE’s Atlas 3D printer is the present largest LPBF system to this point. Picture by way of GE.

Will it actually be the world’s largest? 

When used to explain 3D printers usually, the CTC’s claims of engaged on the “world’s largest” might properly be disputed. Being developed for the US Military, MELD and Ingersoll Machine Instruments’ metallic 3D printer is about to be massive sufficient to create large army car elements. Sciaky additionally unveiled the world’s largest electron beam 3D printer earlier this yr, which might create as much as six-meter-long aerostructures. 

In comparison with different LPBF methods, alternatively, the corporate’s declare seems barely nearer to the mark. With a 1,000 mm³ construct quantity, GE’s ATLAS 3D printer stays the world’s greatest LPBF machine, and regardless of being able to producing large-format aerospace, automotive and oil & fuel elements, its capability might quickly be outmoded by that of SLM Options’ and the CTC’s system. 

As soon as prepared, the machine might additionally handle what’s a rising marketplace for large LPBF-3D printed rocket elements. Velo3D, for instance, launched its largest unit to this point in June 2022, the SAPPHIRE XC 1MZ 3D printer. The agency provides main aerospace shoppers like SpaceX and Launcher, beforehand 3D printing E-2 rocket engine elements for the latter, thus the system’s dimension could properly replicate demand. 

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Featured picture exhibits SLM Options’ NXG XII 600 3D printer. Picture by way of SLM Options.



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