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Investor’s Business Daily is reporting that a German company called SLM Solutions (which stands for “selective laser melting”) is launching an initial public offering in Frankfurt, Germany. The company, based in Lubeck, has developed a line of 3d printers that use powdered aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium heated by lasers to create parts in a process that is ideal for aerospace 3d printing.
The first generation of 3d printers primarily used plastics as a printing medium. However more and more 3d printing has used metal to create parts and tooling for use in such sectors as aerospace, automobiles, and the health care industry.
The Financial Times notes that the laser based additive manufacturing technique developed by SLM is able to create products of greater durability, temperature and corrosion resistance than traditional manufacturing methods such as milling, casting, welding, stamping or moulding.
Even though a number of companies besides SLM have developed the technology, metal based 3d printing accounts for just 10 percent of the market for additive manufacturing. Even though SLM counts among its customers such heavy hitters as NASA, Space X, General Electric and Siemens, its revenues have been modest, about 22 million euros in 2013. It sold fewer than 30 of its laser based metal 3d printers in the same year.
Still the use of this technology, especially in aerospace, is in its infancy. 3d printing has the potential to create products ranging from fuel nozzles to turbine blades. The technology is said to be at an "inflection point" and is "ready for industrial series production."