Here at Croft Additive Manufacturing we use a Selective Laser Melting 3D Printer (SLM) to print products in 316 stainless steel. The process all starts at design stage – our technical team ensure that the CAD file meets all the parameters the 3D printer can understand. The CAD file, converted into a .stl format, is then sliced into layers and support structures are added to prevent distortion of the product from the intense heat created by the laser beam. The printing process starts inside the build chamber where a powder depositor and leveller sweeps the first layer of metal powder onto the build plate to the designated thickness. Once each layer has been distributed, each 2D slice of the part geometry is fused by selectively melting the atomized fine metal powder onto the build plate, usually metal, that is fastened to an processing table which moves down each layer on a vertical (Z) axis. This takes place inside the chamber containing a tightly controlled atmosphere of inert gas, either argon or nitrogen. This is accomplished with a high-power laser beam, usually a laser with hundreds of watts. The laser beam is directed in the X and Y directions with two high frequency scanning mirrors. The laser energy is intense enough to permit full melting (welding) of the particles to form solid metal. The process is repeated layer after layer until the part is complete.