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Multiphysics Modeling of Selective Laser Sintering/Melting


A significant percentage of total global employment is due to the manufacturing industry.

However, manufacturing also accounts for nearly 20% of total energy usage in the United

States according to the EIA. In fact, manufacturing accounted for 90% of industrial energy

consumption and 84% of industry carbon dioxide emissions in 2002. Clearly, advances in

manufacturing technology and efficiency are necessary to curb emissions and help society

as a whole.

Additive manufacturing (AM) refers to a relatively recent group of manufacturing

technologies whereby one can 3D print parts, which has the potential to significantly

reduce waste, reconfigure the supply chain, and generally disrupt the whole manufacturing industry. Selective laser sintering/melting (SLS/SLM) is one type of AM technology with the distinct advantage of being able to 3D print metals and rapidly produce net shape parts with complicated geometries. In SLS/SLM parts are built up layer-by-layer out of powder particles, which are selectively sintered/melted via a laser. However, in order to produce defect-free parts of sufficient strength, the process parameters (laser power, scan speed, layer thickness, powder size, etc.) must be carefully optimized. Obviously, these process parameters will vary depending on material, part geometry, and desired final part characteristics. Running experiments to optimize these parameters is costly, energy intensive, and extremely material specific. Thus a computational model of this process would be highly valuable.

In this work a three dimensional, reduced order, coupled discrete element - finite difference model is presented for simulating the deposition and subsequent laser heating of a layer of powder particles sitting on top of a substrate. Validation is provided and parameter studies are conducted showing the ability of this model to help determine appropriate process parameters and an optimal powder size distribution for a given material. Next, thermal stresses upon cooling are calculated using the finite difference method. Different case studies are performed and general trends can be seen. This work concludes by discussing future extensions of this model and the need for a multi-scale approach to achieve comprehensive part-level models of the SLS/SLM process.

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