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Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering

Front. Mech. Eng.    2019, Vol. 14 Issue (3) : 282-298
Review of materials used in laser-aided additive manufacturing processes to produce metallic products
Xiaodong NIU1,2, Surinder SINGH3, Akhil GARG1(), Harpreet SINGH3, Biranchi PANDA4, Xiongbin PENG1, Qiujuan ZHANG2
1. Intelligent Manufacturing Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education, Shantou University, Shantou 515063, China
2. Shantou Ruixiang Mould Co. Ltd., Jinping S&T Park, Shantou 515064, China
3. Department of Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Ropar, Rupnagar 140001, India
4. IDMEC, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, 1649-004 Lisboa, Portugal
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Rapid prototyping (RP) or layered manufacturing (LM) technologies have been extensively used to manufacture prototypes composed mainly of plastics, polymers, paper, and wax due to the short product development time and low costs of these technologies. However, such technologies, with the exception of selective laser melting and sintering, are not used to fabricate metallic products because of the resulting poor life, short cycle, poor surface finish, and low structural integrity of the fabricated parts. The properties endowed by these parts do not match those of functional parts. Therefore, extensive research has been conducted to develop new additive manufacturing (AM) technologies by extending existing RP technologies. Several AM technologies have been developed for the fabrication of metallic objects. These technologies utilize materials, such as Ni-, Al-, and Ti-based alloys and stainless steel powders, to fabricate high-quality functional components. The present work reviews the type of materials used in laser-based AM processes for the manufacture of metallic products. The advantages and disadvantages of processes and different materials are summarized, and future research directions are discussed in the final section. This review can help experts select the ideal type of process or technology for the manufacturing of elements composed of a given alloy or material (Ni, Ti, Al, Pb, and stainless steel).

Keywords direct metal deposition      laser-based manufacturing      rapid manufacturing      selective laser melting      additive manufacturing     
Corresponding Author(s): Akhil GARG   
Online First Date: 29 September 2018    Issue Date: 24 July 2019
 Cite this article:   
Xiaodong NIU,Surinder SINGH,Akhil GARG, et al. Review of materials used in laser-aided additive manufacturing processes to produce metallic products[J]. Front. Mech. Eng., 2019, 14(3): 282-298.
Fig.1  Schematic of the process of AM to produce parts. STL: Standard Template Library. Reproduced from Ref. [25]
Fig.2  Various process parameters of LAAM that affect the properties of manufactured products. Reproduced from Ref. [41]
Characteristic EBM SLM
Thermal source Electron beam Laser
Atmosphere Vacuum Inert gas
Scanning Deflection coils Galvanometers
Energy absorption Conductivity limited Absorptivity limited
Powder pre-heating Use electron beam Use infrared heaters
Scan speeds Very fast, magnetically driven Limited by galvanometer inertia
Energy costs Moderate High
Surface finish Moderate to poor Excellent to moderate
Feature resolution Moderate Excellent
Materials Metal (conductors) Polymers, metals, ceramics
Tab.1  Comparison of the properties of parts produced by EBM and SLM [52]
Technique Advantages and disadvantages
RP with high power laser fibres Free of defects, lower melting efficiency with respect to other LM processes.
EBM 20%–80% higher elongation, hardness;
high density parts made in lesser time when high power fibre lasers are used.
3DMW Improved Vickers hardness and wear resistance
SLS Higher density, hybrid manufacturing, less porosity
SLM Better bio-compatibility for tantalum and titanium alloys as compared to Ti-6Al-4V.
Tab.2  Comparison of various techniques used to additively manufacture Ti-based alloys
Technique Advantages and disadvantages
SLM Comparable to other LM processes with regard to time, cost but have higher rigidity and wear resistance. Parts are free from cracks, defects with higher tensile strength, high thermal stresses generated during melting/solidification.
Laser surface modification in LENS 38% improvement in thermal conductivity, 54% in performance, 21% in convective heat transfer rate.
Micro powder injection Real time monitoring, rapid mold adjustment makes molding of high aspect green micro-structures possible, made with lower heat loss.
RP machine: Micro welding M3 linear, 3D (SLS), EOS (DLSM), MCP-HEK (SLM) RPM can make complicated geometry products, cooling tubes and thin walls, with the best quality and strength from M3 linear. Poor surface finish, but can be used with all materials processed by SLS, EBM, and LPD.
Tab.3  Comparison of various AM techniques used to manufacture stainless steel-based alloy products
Technique Advantages and disadvantages
DMD Free from cracks, porosity and bonding error for Inconel 625.
3DMW Used on Inconel 600. Hardness, elongation, density and strength comparable to commercial super alloy.
SLM 90% higher density, most of the metals, high strength. Better dimensional accuracy.
3DP on powder mix of Fe, Cr, Ni, Cu, and Mo Same steady state maximum temperature, but different transient temperature evolution.
Tab.4  Comparison of various additive manufacturing techniques used to manufacture Ni-based alloy parts
Technique Advantages and disadvantages
Rapid casting based on 3DP Prototyping done in lesser times with lower costs, dimensional tolerances within metal casting limits.
Preferred to make complex shapes from CAD with lower production costs.
RP with integrated investment casting process Reduced fluidity due to viscosity increase of the melt.
Anchorless SLM Reduced residual stresses, better geometric tolerances for overhanging geometries, no anchoring is required for holding.
Tab.5  Comparison of various AM techniques used to manufacture Al-based alloy products
Technique Advantages and disadvantages
Direct RP printing Used in 3D printed circuits. Size reduction of 34%.
3DP Significant difference in aerodynamic coefficients of fabricated airfoil, lower time and cost expended. Using Elecform, makes products comparable to SLS/SLM, HSM parts.
SLS Can produce functionally graded porous specimens with controlled variations in physical and mechanical properties. Reduced porosity in injection molded parts, better process than oven post processing.
DMLS for RT of tyre tread ring mould Saves time, cost aiding in tyre testing and development.
Laser-based digital microfabrication Compatible with wide range of materials, surface chemistries and morphologies.
Direct laser fabrication Nd:YAG laser produces high intensity, finely crystallised parts with lower plasticity and oriented solidification structure.
Tab.6  Comparison of the various additive manufacturing techniques used to manufacture lead-based alloy parts
Parameters Laser cladding Cold spray coating
Thickness range 1–3 mm 3 mm
Adhesion strength 48 MPa Very less (coating detached from substrate during handling)
Porosity >2% <1%
Tensile strength 180 MPa 170 MPa
Elongation 11% 7%
Electrical conductivity Not measured 53 MSU
Thermal conductivity 140 W/(m?K) >200 W/(m?K)
Density 7.65 g/mL3 (89%) 7.40 g/mL3 (86%)
Corrosion rate 17.77×10−3 mpy 342.7×10−3 mpy
Tab.7  Properties’ comparison for the laser cladded and cold sprayed thick copper coatings
Fig.3  Path of movement of manufacturing techniques from conventional to advanced. HVOF: High velocity oxy-fuel
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