A simulation study on the effect of layer thickness variation in selective laser melting

V. Ramesh Sagar, S. Lorin, K. Wärmefjord, R. Söderberg. Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering, 1-13. Online October 5, 2022.


Selective laser melting (SLM) has gained prominence in the manufacturing industry for its ability to produce lightweight components. As the raw material used is in powder form, the stochastic nature of the powder distribution influences the layer thickness and affects the final build quality. In this paper, a multi-layer multi-track simulation study is conducted to investigate the effect of stochastic powder distribution on the layer thickness and plastic strain in a printed geometry. A faster simulation approach is employed to simulate multiple layers. First, the powder distribution and the melt layer thickness of the first layer are obtained from Discrete Element Method (DEM) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations respectively. Next, the melt layer thickness of the first layer is used as an input to the Finite Element (FE) based structural mechanics solver to predict the deformation and layer thickness of subsequent layers. Two nominal layer thicknesses 67.4 um and 20 um were considered. Two particle size distribution (PSD) configurations and two scanning strategies were tested. The results showed that variation in PSD and scanning strategy leads to variation in layer thickness which in turn leads to variation in the plastic strain that is known to drive the deformation. However, the nominal layer thickness of 20 um was found to be less influenced by the PSD configuration. The proposed simulation approach and the insights achieved can be used as inputs in the part-scale simulations for geometric robustness evaluation in the early design stages of SLM products.

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