Three Mistakes to Avoid When Getting Started with Laser Beam Melting


Additive manufacturing is a breakthrough technology and more and more industrial companies consider using selective laser melting for the production of metal parts. They start the process true to the motto: “Let’s just talk to the machine manufacturers and simply buy a unit”.

Is it really that simple to set up and operate an additive production site in a reliable, safe and profitable way? Too often it is not plug & play and experience pays off.

Air Liquide and the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU) are highlighting the three most common sources of mistakes and how to avoid them. A more comprehensive and detailed white paper with 10 practical tips for selective laser melting is also available for download.

How to get started with selective laser melting

Get the white paper as PDF file.

Mistake 1: Considering additive manufacturing merely as a new way to manufacture a part

Additive manufacturing is more than just producing parts on a machine using a different technology. In order to fully utilize the potential of additive manufacturing, a completely new way of thinking needs to be established starting with the design and engineering of the parts. If you continue to simply manufacture conventional parts with a new technology, you will miss most of the benefits.

Mistake 2: Doing everything on your own

If you are just getting started and have only limited experience in this very specialist field: it is better to work together with experienced partners. Yes, it will come at a cost. On the other hand, the time and trouble you save is well worth the investment. There is a reason why larger companies have teams dedicated to additive manufacturing or prefer to work with job shops who have already developed knowledge in AM.

Mistake 3: Simply buying a machine - neglecting infrastructure

Additive manufacturing requires more than just a new machine. It requires setting up the whole process for the part with pre- and post-processing along with a corresponding infrastructure and skilled employees. Often regarded as a mere necessity, consumables like electricity, compressed air, industrial gases (e.g. argon and nitrogen) as well as peripheral equipment (e.g. for post processing) are only thought of at the last minute. With the pressure of deadlines and an already fixed layout for the manufacturing machines, these things just have to fit in. This can result in a suboptimal setup that again leads to unplanned and unnecessary expenses, for instance as the number of machines grows.

Interested in more tips for selective laser melting?

Air Liquide and the Fraunhofer IWU have compiled a comprehensive guide with ten tips on how to build up a profitable and reliable production for selective laser melting.

Read this white paper if you

  • intend to introduce additive manufacturing - and in particular selective laser melting - in your company
  • are interested in key learnings for the successful set-up of your production facility
  • are looking for a best practices in your daily operations

About the Authors

Dr. Bernhard Müller has studied mechanical engineering in Dresden, Germany and the United States. After working for 12 years in the industry, Müller started working as a research fellow at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology where he established the new scientific research area »additive manufacturing« in 2008. Today he is Head of Department Additive Manufacturing and Spokesman of the Fraunhofer Alliance Additive Manufacturing.

Markus Effinger studied business chemistry in Münster, Germany and has been working for more than 10 years in the chemical industry. Since 2015 he is Market Manager for Automotive and Fabrication at Air Liquide in Germany. One of his main responsibilities is the development of new offers for additive manufacturing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Fraunhofer IWU and Air Liquide collaborate to develop new ideas and technologies for selective laser melting. They share the goal of promoting the use of additive manufacturing for industrial applications. The white paper has therefore been compiled to ease the start for companies that are new to this technology. Co-authors include Coralie Charpentier, Marie-Caroline Dick, Francis Briand, Fabien Januard, Richard Kordaß and Thorsten Schnabel.