A Simulation Study on the Effect of Particle Size Distribution on the Printed Geometry in Selective Laser Melting

V. Ramesh Sagar, S. Lorin, J. Göhl, J. Quist, K. Jareteg, C. Cromvik, A. Mark, F. Edelvik, K. Wärmefjord, R. Söderberg. Journal of Manufacturing Science and Engineering May 2022, 144(5): 051006 (10 pages). Online: 25 October 2021.


Selective laser melting (SLM) process is a powder bed fusion additive manufacturing process that finds applications in aerospace and medical industries for its ability to produce complex geometry parts. As the raw material used is in the powder form, particle size distribution (PSD) is a significant characteristic that influences the build quality in turn affecting the functionality and esthetic aspects of the product. This article investigates the effect of PSD on the printed geometry for 316L stainless steel pow der, where three coupled in-house simulation tools based on discrete element method (DEM), computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and structural mechanics are employed. DEM is used for simulating the powder bed distribution based on the different powder PSD. The CFD is used as a virtual testbed to determine thermal parameters such as heat capacity and thermal conductivity of the powder bed viewed as a continuum. The values found as a stochastic function of the powder distribution are used to analyze the effect on the melted zone and deformation using structural mechanics. Results showed that mean particle size and PSD had a significant effect on the packing density, melt pool layer thickness, and the final layer thickness after deformation. Specifically, a narrow particle size distribution with smaller mean particle size and standard deviation produced solidified final layer thickness closest to nominal layer thickness. The proposed simulation approach and the results will catalyze the development of geometry assurance strategies to minimize the effect of particle size distribution on the geometric quality of the printed part.

Photo credits: Nic McPhee