Overview FAQ Videos

Metal AM Laboratory Overview

The Metal AM lab is equipped to generate 3D models, render machine build-code, manufacture metal AM parts, and recycle metal powder.  The technology in use is Selective Laser Melting, where fine metal particles are melted and re-solidified together layer by layer.  This process opens new opportunities for research and production of novel designs.

Location: THOM 112B

Email: malawey@tamu.edu (laboratory coordinator)

Operating Hours: 8 a.m.–5 p.m. M–F by appointment only

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Frequently Asked Questions

 What are the safety hazards associated with SLM?

  • Metal powder contact:  The powder particles average 35 microns in diameter and much finer particles are generated inside the machine during the melting process.  Gloves and respirators must be worn while handling this powder to reduce the risk of absorption in the skin or lungs.
  • Static ignition:  If powder is flung into the air where oxygen is present, a simple static shock could ignite it.  Electro static dissipating mats are placed to reduce this possibility.
  • Argon gas:  Argon gas is used to inert the build chamber during builds and is purged from the machine in the normal process.  Oxygen sensors are used in the build room to monitor if too much air is displaced by the argon.
  • Heavy objects:  The steel build plates weigh about 15 pounds and the powder overflow flask can weigh up to 50 lbs.  Rolling carts are used when possible to transfer heavy parts and reduce the risk of drops or muscle strains.
  • Laser exposure:  The 400 watt laser is powerful enough to melt metal in a fraction of a second.  The AM400 machine is equipped with safety viewing glass and emergency stop interlocks so humans are not able to have contact with the beam.

What is the density of the final part?

Parts made using the SLM process achieve about 98% of the density of a cast part without any postprocessing.

What materials can be printed?

Stainless steel, Titanium, Nickel alloys, Aluminum, Inconel, and more.  New materials are continuously being studied by the industry to characterize the best parameters for use in a laser melting machine like ours.


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