Today, most metal 3D printers use selective laser melting technology, which uses a laser to melt powdered metal. There are currently dozens of manufacturers worldwide offering metal 3D printers using SLM technology in many sizes with different features.

How SLM technology works

SLM 3D printers use high-power lasers to selectively melt metal powder. The melted parts fuse together layer by layer on a molecular basis until the uniform pattern is complete.

Printer operators can use metal or alloy materials that are also used frequently. There are quite a few metals that can participate in the 3D printing process using SLM technology, however, the most popular include:

  • Aluminum
  • Cobalt Chrome
  • Copper
  • Nickel (Inconel)
  • Stainless steel and tool steel
  • Titanium
  • Precious metal

Basically, the operating process of SLM technology is the same as selective laser sintering (SLS). This is a 3D printing process for plastic in powder form. The special feature of this technology is that the printed product does not need support structures during the printing process. The plastic powder in the printing chamber will support parts that may fail.

However, for SLM technology where the material used is metal powder, the temperature needed to melt the powder is quite high. As a result, stress can arise and cause warping and deformation of the part. A general rule of thumb is that overhangs or hollow structures angled between 0 and 45 degrees should be supported. They are added to dissipate heat from the printing part and also securely fix the part to the print bed.

First, a coater (like a windshield wiper) or a roller applies a thin layer of powder on the surface of the print bed.

Next, the high-power laser fuses a two-dimensional slice of the part by selectively melting the powdered material. The printing bed then lowers to the thickness of one printing layer and the coater spreads another new layer of powder onto the surface. The printer repeats these steps until the printed part is complete.

Some printers have bidirectional coaters. This type of blade can push the powder onto the printing bed moving in both directions and helps speed up the coating process by up to 40%. Another way that SLM printer manufacturers make printing faster is to use multiple lasers or use more powerful lasers.

How SLM works:



A compact SLM printer may only have a 30-watt laser. After a process of research and development, metal 3D printers can now have 12 laser beams operating simultaneously with a capacity of 1000 watts for each beam, typically the NXG XII 600 series of Nikon SLM Solutions.

Application of SLM technology in industries

Aerospace: Monolithic thrust chamber

This is a monolithic thrust chamber manufactured with the cooperation between CellCore and SLM Solutions. With an optimized lattice structure (which can only be produced using 3D printing technology), part weight has been significantly reduced while maintaining the same performance compared to conventional designs. Not only that, the part's monolithic design has reduced production time from months to just days.

Automotive: Cadillac Eldorado control box cover

The dashboard cover for a classic Cadillac Eldorado required the help of metal 3D printing technology to create a replacement part. With the SLM®280 Twin machine with two lasers, the 2.32kg part was produced within 42 hours. Along with 13 hours of post-production, producing this part using 3D printing technology still saves 55 hours compared to traditional methods.


Medical: Orthopedic hip implants

This acetabular cup is a standard sized hip implant fabricated layer by layer using SLM technology. With a delicate mesh structure, this implant is more optimal than conventional products thanks to its compatibility with human bone development. Not only that, 3D printing allows the personalization of each implant in terms of shape, size, and structure so that they can fit each patient's body.


Energy: Turbocharger impeller

SLM Solutions has successfully manufactured Wärtsilä's propeller with the SLM®280 PS at the application center in Germany using the Free Float application. With Free Float's sophisticated data, the manufactured propellers have been reduced in weight by 40%.

SLM®280 Production Series (SLM®280 PS)

This is the third 3D printer built and developed by Nikon SLM Solutions. With dimensions of 280 x 280 x 365 mm, 25% larger than other machines of the same type, along with up to 2 laser beams with a capacity of up to 700W, the SLM®280 PS is oriented to become a production machine for applications requiring high productivity.


As the first four-laser metal system on the market, the SLM®500 can integrate independent or parallel lasers to increase printing speeds by 90% compared to dual laser configurations. In addition, the SLM®500 also has a closed powder handling system, which completely protects machine users from metal powder materials.


Integrated with 12 lasers that can operate at the same time, NGX XII provides production speeds 20 times faster than a single laser printer, and 5 times faster than a 4 lasers printer. With the above characteristics, NXG XII is oriented as a machine designed to serve mass production purposes.


Source:, SLM Solutions

Vinnotek: Your Trusted Partner for 3D Printing Design and Simulation Solutions 

To fully leverage the potential of 3D printing, professional design and simulation services are essential. At Vinnotek, we pride ourselves on being a reliable partner, providing 3D printing design and simulation services for critical components across various industries. 

We not only deliver the benefits of advanced 3D printing technology but also serve as the official representative of Nikon SLM Solutions, one of the world's leading metal 3D printer manufacturers, and Titomic, a pioneer in large-scale additive manufacturing applications such as tools, parts, and machinery components, replacing traditional manufacturing methods. 

Combining creativity and professionalism, we are committed to partnering with your business to optimize design, reduce production costs, and enhance work efficiency. 

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