Rolls-Royce to 3D print aerospace parts with SLM 500

Rolls-Royce, a British manufacturer and distributor of power systems for aviation and automotive industries, has announced plans to 3D print aerospace parts with SLM Solutions quad-laser technology. The engineering giant is also joining SLM’s beta customer programme for future developments.

Meddah Hadjar, CEO of SLM Solutions Group AG said, “Rolls-Royce is very advanced in additive layer manufacturing, with a state-of-the-art approach and expert team working on extremely complex metal additive manufacturing solutions.”

“SLM Solutions recognized the need at Rolls-Royce for a supplier to support with equipment qualification. We work closely to develop products that meet their needs to assure aerospace certified part quality levels. This way the Rolls-Royce team can document their expertise and control of the systems adhering to strict regulations and keep their ambitious and innovative additive production plans on track.”

Investing in 3D printing for aerospace  

Rolls-Royce have been investing heavily in additive manufacturing over the last few years. In 2015 the company flew the Trent XWB-97 engine, which featured the largest additive manufactured component ever flown. The 1.5 meter diameter titanium structure was 3D printed on a metal AM system from Arcam.

In July 2018 the company announced a partnership with international aerospace company Airbus to develop and test 3D printed and welded architecture for Rolls-Royce’s UltraFan engine. The following October Rolls Royce used Arcam’s electron beam melting technology, once again to produce parts fort the Advance3 engine, which will form the core of the company’s UltraFan engine design, scheduled for launch in 2025.

Metal 3D printing with the SLM500

Germany’s SLM Solutions is one of the largest metal specialists in the 3D printing industry. Its selective laser melting machines like the SLM280, SLM500 and SLM800 are used in the automotive and aerospace sector.

Rolls-Royce selected the SLM500 system – the first quad-laser machine introduced to the market in 2013 – to meet its high productivity and rigorous quality control demands.

With four lasers enabling build rates up to 171 cm3, the SLM500 serves as SLM’s flagship metal 3D printer for high volume processes, offering automated, closed-loop material supply, recovery and sieving to minimize operator handling of metal powder.

Rolls-Royce noted that key to its adoption was the machine’s inert gas flow control, which maintains a controlled working atmosphere across the build chamber, providing optimal results in a compact footprint.


Selective Laser Melting Machine SLM500. Photo via SLM Solutions

Neil Mantle, Head of Additive Layer Manufacturing at Rolls-Royce said: ”We are delighted to be working with SLM Solutions and using their quad-laser machines. Rolls-Royce continues to develop our additive layer manufacturing capability to ensure we are at the forefront of advanced manufacturing”.  

“We knew that transferring our expertise and knowledge gained from single laser machines to multi-laser platforms would require a close working relationship and SLM Solutions have provided this.”

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Featured image shows the Schematic of the Rolls-Royce Ultrafan jet engine. Image via Rolls-Royce.