Technology maturity index
A technology on the brink of full maturity
Industrialization maturity index
Wide adoption through all high value metal verticals
Design and applications
High design freedom only limited by support structures
Materials and alloys
Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion material variety
For LB-PBF a large variety of alloys is commercially available. The most important prerequisite is a good weldability. Furthermore, the material must be available as a powder with a suitable particle size distribution. The powder fraction is system and process specific and differs between about 20 µm to 60 µm. With an adaptation of process parameters larger as well as finer powder fractions are possible, too. Very fine powder fractions tend to agglomerate during handling and coating due to extremely fine dust particles in the distribution and should be avoided.
Typical alloys processed with LB-PBF are Ti-6Al-4V, CoCr, stainless and tool steels, nickel-based superalloys, aluminum alloys and also precious metals. High purity copper is difficult in processing with today’s machine systems as the available laser wave lengths is only poorly absorbed.
Typical material properties for LB-PBF exceed ISO standard for surgical implants
Advantages and disadvantages
Cost as the remaining threshold for a wider adoption
The main benefits of LB-PBF technology are the good mechanical properties of the resulting parts, their high density and the fine resolution. The technology is well-established with a large variety of available metal alloys. It is a single-stage production that enables a high freedom of design. Scrap material is reduced through near net shape production and recycling of the unmelted powder.
However, internal residual stresses that are induced during cooling constitute a restriction since they can lead to part deformations or cracks. Support structures to counteract such stresses have to be removed after the building process. The relatively rough surface, moreover, typically requires several post-processing steps. The investment costs for machine systems as well as the feedstock material are considerably high and may pose a limiting factor on potential business cases.