3D printing of airplaneOn 1 October 2013, the National Aerospace Laboratory of the Netherlands (NLR) held a symposium on NLR’s new four-year Selective Laser Melting (SLM) programme. SLM is an additive manufacturing process that uses three-dimensional CAD data to create metal parts, and is quickly gaining in popularity. This technique offers major benefits compared to conventional manufacturing processes, including less waste, weight reduction, and greater design freedom. During the symposium, representatives of the manufacturing industry, the defence industry, universities and knowledge institutes were invited to register for participation in NLR’s four-year SLM programme.

Standardization of the process and the materials used is vitally important for the application of SLM in aviation, aerospace, and other sectors. In addition, extensive research still needs to be conducted into the effects of material and process parameters on mechanical properties and accuracy. Design rules will need to be established to enable designers to make optimal use of the possibilities offered by SLM processes. NLR’s SLM programme is aimed at gearing SLM processes in detail to the technology demand and requirements of the industry, thus enhancing the industry’s competitiveness and capacity for innovation.

In 2012 NLR decided to invest in an SLM printer in order to make SLM expertise and facilities available to the manufacturing industry. The printer was delivered and commissioned in June 2013. In January 2014, NLR will start a four-year programme to address various technology issues in the field of SLM. The SLM programme will be set up as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and carried out as a Joint Industry Project (JIP), in line with the ‘top sectors’ policy of the Dutch government.

The symposium presentations can be found here.