In its first major move since its acquisition by Nikon, SLM Solutions is set to enhance its existing product lineup by incorporating ADIRA’s AddCreative additive manufacturing (AM) technology. This new addition represents a potentially transformative approach to large component manufacturing, providing a scalable production method for very large parts, a market driven by demands in New Space and defense sectors. Specifically, SLM Solutions has acquired the technology from ADIRA, with the firm’s AddCreative’s team in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal set to join SLM Solution to continue their work.
AddCreative technology was originally known as Tiled Laser Melting (TLM) when developed by Fraunhofer ILT, but took on the new name when commercialized by Portuguese cutting tools and metalworking company ADIRA. This laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) process breaks down the overall build volume into individual tiles, printing them one by one in an optimal sequence within a movable build chamber. The laser head can be moved on a gantry, allowing for independent operation of the recoater. This system configuration could permit multiple lasers to print several parts simultaneously, increasing the machine’s speed and capacity for creating larger objects. Originally a quad-laser system, it expanded to five lasers and might be further broadened to 12 lasers for SLM.
Through AddCreative SLM now has a different technology approach which could be a scalable production method for very large parts. Very large parts for New Space and defense are driving high end LPBF 3D Printer sales at the moment so this could be a very valuable deal for SLM. SLM is not going to ditch its existing technology approach however. It sees the ADIRA system as a new offering between the NXG XII 600 and other large scale systems. As part of the deal the Portuguese team will join SLM.
SLM sees ADIRA’s system as a new offering that bridges the gap between its existing technology, such as the NXG XII 600, and other large-scale systems. The Portuguese team will join SLM as part of the deal. SLM Solutions’ CEO Sam O’Leary expressed enthusiasm for the integration, stating:
“Integrating this advanced technology into our portfolio helps complete our offering, bridging the gap between our current systems and our future large-scale AM system. It is another testament to our relentless innovation aimed at overcoming our customers’ manufacturing challenges and altering the manufacturing landscape forever.”
ADIRA’s CEO Miguel Gil Mata shared a similar sentiment, saying:
¨I’m thrilled to see this innovative technology, in-house invented and nurtured from the very beginning by our team, being integrated into one of the leading players in the 3D printing landscape. This is the best recognition for the breakthroughs we have achieved, and an excellent opportunity for our team and product to further develop within SLM.”
Currently, AddCreative boasts a build volume of 1000 by 1000 by 500 CM, but the technology suggests the possibility of even larger machines. Unlike traditional LPBF, it opens the door to selectively heating areas or employing multiple build units across an extensive area. The thermal stresses and slow recoating process could be avoided, making AddCreative a more distributed metal 3D printing technology that minimizes thermal stress and distortion.
In the broader context, this collaboration signifies that Nikon is committed to AM and possibly open to future investments. The industry is witnessing shifts as some investors double down while others pull out. Companies are either leaving AM behind in pursuit of other ventures or making substantial internal changes to embrace true manufacturing with 3D printing. High growth areas such as hypersonics, defense, new space, and satellites have created a significant demand for reliable large part printing. The market’s potential is vast, especially as needs continue to grow, as seen in projects like Starlink’s 12,000-satellite plan.