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Surface finishing techniques for SLM manufactured stainless steel 316L components

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Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is an additive manufacturing (AM) process which builds components through melting layers of powdered material together. The surface finish on these manufactured components typically requires additional manual finishing or post-processing. Traditionally, mechanical polishing techniques utilise semi skilled labour and usually requires significant time input resulting in it being an expensive and inefficient process. This paper considers less labour intensive post processing techniques such as media blasting and tumbling for SLM produced stainless steel 316L components. In particular, the change in the surface profile due to the finishing processes employed was the primary issue for investigation. However, changes in the dimensions, geometric features and overall form were also studied. Parameters of the build process (machine operation) that ultimately impact on the final components surface finish or finishing process required, were noted and discussed. It was found that a range of surface roughness and surface finishes can be achieved using the techniques outlined above. It is possible to achieve a good surface finish using some of these techniques, although, it is obvious that these techniques are not solely sufficient for the post processing of stainless steel 316L components.