Which metal 3D-printing processes are available?

In metal 3D-printing, there are a variety of different additive manufacturing processes for component production. Each with advantages and disadvantages in terms of i.e. production costs, build dimensions, material selection and part complexity.

What is LPBF (Laser Powder Bed Fusion, PBF-LB) or SLM® (Selective Laser Melting)?

  • With a market share of more than 90 %, the LPBF process is most frequently used for the production of functional metal 3D-printed components. This is also Rosswag's preferred process for manufacturing metal components for industrial applications. One or more lasers serve as the energy source for local melting of the metal powder in a powder bed.
  • Other frequently used process names for the LPBF process are DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering), LaserCUSING, ALM (Additive Layer Manufacturing), LMF (Laser Metal Fusion) and LBM (Laser Beam Melting).

The component to be manufactured is built up from metal powder layer by layer with the aid of the laser using microwelding processes. In the process, the high dense component is produced close to the final contour within the powder bed. Most of the metal powder that is not melted can be reused after the unpacking process.

Due to the layer-by-layer procedure in metal 3D-printing, even highly complex geometries can be created without additional efforts. Functionally optimized geometries include i.e. channel structures for conformal cooling. There are also opportunities to combine the functions of complex assemblies in a single component. This design, known as integral construction, reduces the amount of post-processing and assembly work required because individual components are already combined with each other during production. Lightweight applications also benefit from metal 3D-printing, as topology optimization or honeycomb structures at unloaded part areas can realize high weight savings.


What is EBM (Eletron Beam Melting, PBF-EB)?

  • A process comparable to LPBF with electron beams as the energy source used and usually higher process temperatures.


What does DED (Direct Energy Deposition) mean?

  • In the DED process, powder or wire is fed in via a nozzle and melted with a laser, electron beam or electric arc. This also enables multi-axis deposition processes on large components. Depending on the process combination used, the process is referred to as Laser Metal Deposition (LMD), Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM), Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) or Wire Laser Additive Manufacturing (WLAM).


How does Metal Binder Jetting work?

  • Also known from the plastics sector, metal binder jetting involves the selective bonding of metal powder in a powder bed by means of a polymer binder. The resulting green part is then freed from the binder by thermal processes and sintered to form a dense component.


What is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)?

  • As with plastic 3D-printing for home use, a filament is melted and deposited layer by layer. However, the filament contains metal powder particles, which are then bonded by debinding and sintering to form a dense metal component.

Advantages and Applications of LPBF, EBM, and SLM 3D Printing

LPBF (Laser Powder Bed Fusion), EBM (Electron Beam Melting), and SLM (Selective Laser Melting) are three powder bed fusion (PBF) additive manufacturing (AM) processes that use a laser or electron beam to melt metal powder layer by layer to create a solid 3D object. All three processes offer a number of advantages over traditional manufacturing methods, including:

  • Complex geometries: PBF, EBM, and SLM can be used to create complex geometries that would be difficult or impossible to manufacture using traditional methods. This makes them ideal for applications such as medical devices, aerospace components, and jewelry.
  • Strength and durability: PBF, EBM, and SLM parts can achieve high strength and durability, making them suitable for demanding applications.
  • Weight savings: PBF, EBM, and SLM parts can be made lighter than traditionally manufactured parts, which can save weight and improve performance.

Applications of LPBF, EBM, and SLM

LPBF, EBM, and SLM are used in a wide range of applications, including:
  • Medical devices: PBF, EBM, and SLM are used to create custom implants, surgical tools, and other medical devices.
  • Aerospace: PBF, EBM, and SLM are used to create lightweight, strong components for aircraft and spacecraft.
  • Automotive: PBF, EBM, and SLM are used to create complex, lightweight components for cars and trucks.
  • Industrial: PBF, EBM, and SLM are used to create tools, dies, and other industrial components.


PBF, EBM, and SLM are powerful AM processes that offer a number of advantages over traditional manufacturing methods. They are used in a wide range of applications, including medical devices, aerospace, automotive, and industrial.

Specific differences between LPBF and SLM

LPBF and SLM are both laser-based PBF processes, but they have some key differences. LPBF uses a continuous laser beam, while SLM uses a pulsed laser beam. This difference in laser type leads to some differences in the resulting parts.

LPBF parts tend to have a smoother surface finish than SLM parts. This is because the continuous laser beam of LPBF melts the metal powder more evenly. LPBF parts also tend to be stronger than SLM parts, because the continuous laser beam allows for a more uniform melting of the metal powder.

However, SLM parts can be made with higher resolutions than LPBF parts. This is because the pulsed laser beam of SLM allows for more precise control over the melting of the metal powder. SLM parts can also be made with more complex geometries than LPBF parts, because the pulsed laser beam allows for more flexibility in the placement of the laser beam.

Which process is right for you?

The best process for you will depend on your specific needs and requirements. If you need parts with a smooth surface finish and high strength, LPBF is a good option. If you need parts with high resolution or complex geometries, SLM is a good option.

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