Been looking for the perfect SLM 3D printer that’ll help you amp up your production to the next level? Well, keep reading! There’s a whole lot of them out there — and the terms can get pretty confusing. And honestly, it can be really tough sometimes to research things by yourself to make the best possible buying decision.
But don’t fret. We’re here to clear up all the confusion with SLM 3D printers and what you should look for in them. Thanks to our thorough testing and research, we’ve figured out the best printers in different areas, including budget and speed.
And with the help of these findings, we are going to break everything down step by step to help you find the best SLM 3D printer for you. Let’s get right into it!
Table of Contents
- Best SLM 3D Printers At A Glance
- 1. SLM Solutions NXG XII 600 (Premium Choice)
- 2. ProtoFab PF-M 280 (Best Value)
- 3. RenAM 500 Series (Best Choice)
- 4. GE Concept Laser M2 Series 5 (Best for High-Quality Prints)
- 5. Xact Metal XM200C (Best for Small Scale Production)
- 6. Kurtz Ersa Alpha 140 (Best for Entry Level)
- 7. H3D LACM-100 (Great for Dental Applications)
- What is SLM 3D Printing?
- What Materials Used for Selective Laser Melting?
- Advantages of SLM 3D Printing
- Disadvantages of SLM Printing
- What is Selective Laser Melting Used For?
- Who Uses Selective Laser Melting 3D Printer?
- What is the Difference Between SLS and SLM?
- What To Consider When Buying A Selective Laser Melting 3D Printer
- So Which Selective Laser Melting 3D Printer Is The Best?
Best SLM 3D Printers At A Glance
1. SLM Solutions NXG XII 600 (Premium Choice)
2. ProtoFab PF-M 280 (Best Value)
3. RenAM 500 Series (Best Choice)
4. GE Concept Laser M2 Series 5 (Best for High-Quality Prints)
5. Xact Metal XM200C (Best for Small Scale Production)
6. Kurtz Ersa Alpha 140 (Best for Entry Level)
7. H3D LACM-100 (Great for Dental Applications)
3D Printer Type: SLM/DMLS | Materials: Metal | Build Volume: 600 x 600 x 600 mm
The SLM Solutions NXG XII 600 (that is a lot of letters and numbers) is an SLM 3D printer that’s built for fast, robust production of parts. It comes with 12 lasers of 1000 watts each. Yes, you read that right — TWELVE lasers. *cue evil scientist laugh*
You can get build rates of up to 1000 cubic centimeters per hour with this printer — and its 216 liter build cylinder can provide an insane 10,000kg of parts per year.
Also, it’s up to 20 times faster compared to single laser systems, which is ideal if you need lots of parts, and you need them quick. And with the 600’s open architecture platform, you have the possibility of customizing certain printing parameters, as well as using 3rd party powders, which is really handy if you want to try out powders from different manufacturers.
It also comes with a gigantic build volume of epic proportions at an INSANE 600 x 600 x 600 mm. That’s crazy. With that kind of build volume, this printer is amazing for making large parts or models. Or, you could use that space to print lots of small things.
Regardless, such a build volume gives you a lot of room (pun intended) to speed things up — and so this printer is the one to go to if you want fast and large production.
3D Printer Type: SLM | Materials: Stainless Steel, Titanium-Based Alloy, Ferro-Based Alloy, Aluminum-Based Alloy, Nickel-Based Alloy, Cobalt-Based Alloy, Copper-Based Alloy, etc. | Build Volume: 250 x 250 x 300 mm
Looking for a mid-sized SLM printer for your production? Take a look at the ProtoFab PF-M 280. With the capability of printing at a layer thickness from 20 up to 40 microns, the ProtoFab is a great mid-sized printer that can print parts, models, and prototypes quickly and accurately.
With a laser spot diameter of just 10 microns (smaller spot diameter equals more accuracy, and 10 microns is pretty darn small!), it uses an IPG continuous laser along with a galvanometer scanner — which is a mirror system used to move small laser beams quickly, yielding incredible accuracy and precision. Kind of like a circus funhouse of mirrors for lasers.
The ProtoFab PF-M 280 can print a variety of metals like stainless steel, bronze, titanium, and aluminum. It’s got a moderately decent build volume of 250 x 250 x 300 mm, which is good enough for most industrial applications.
The ProtoFab uses a heat-resistant silicone rubber blade — almost like an in-built 3D printer grandma with her rubber spatula — to evenly distribute powder across the build chamber.
Now let’s get to the tech. This printer uses ProtoFab Slicer, a simple and intuitive slicing program. We weren’t super impressed by the UI — it could do with a bit of a revamp and feels kind of dated. But it does its job well either way.
The ProtoFab has Wi-Fi and Ethernet capabilities, so that’s nice. It’s also got a neat LCD interface, which is expected for most SLM printers — but is a welcome touch considering this printer’s affordability.
3D Printer Type: SLM | Materials: Metal | Build Volume: 250 x 250 x 350 mm
Want fast production but don’t need a really big printer like the NXG XII 600? The RenAM 500 printers may be what you’re looking for.
With a build volume of 250 x 250 x 350 mm, the RenAM 500 printers come with FOUR 500 Watt lasers. So you’ve got increased — as well as faster — output. You also have the option to just use one laser if that suits you better.
Also, there’s the dual SafeChange filter which reduces argon consumption and emissions. And it helps maintain optimal gas flow, which means a better environment in which to print.
With this tight control of gas flow and the printer’s environment, you can get parts with almost 100% density, strength, and ductility. EPIC. This also keeps the powder quality almost intact as well as increasing the longevity of the printer.
The RenAM 500’s optical system enables dynamic focusing. That means all lasers can focus on the whole print bed at the same time. This cuts down on build time because laser energy is used for the whole bed.
So if you find the twelve lasers of the NXG XII 600 too much for your production or out of your budget — but also want more speed than the ProtoFab and similar printers, this line of printers could be it for you.
3D Printer Type: SLM/DMLM | Materials: Metal | Build Volume: 245 x 245 x 350 mm
With a build volume of 245 x 245 x 350 mm, the GE Concept Laser M2 Series 5 (quite the mouthful) is a line of robust printers that focuses on making high-quality prints while still maintaining the whole production and speed aspect of these printers.
Quick note, GE makes washing machines too. Wouldn’t a dual washing machine-3D printer be cool?
Let’s talk about the GE Concept Laser M2 Series 5 1kW. This printer offers a layer thickness of 25 up to 120 microns and a print speed of 2 to 93 cubic centimeters per hour, depending on laser power and material. So its focus (pun intended) is on delivering speed and accuracy.
Speaking of which, its laser has a focus diameter starting from 50 up to 700 microns. The setting you use depends on the accuracy you need. Remember, more accuracy = smaller focus diameter. If you’re printing a bigger object that’s more for functionality, you can use a larger focus diameter. Points to GE for the variety on this thing! And, as the name implies, the printer comes with two 1000 Watt lasers — ideal if you want faster production.
The next printer in this line is the Concept Laser M2 Series 5 400W, which — you guessed it, comes with 2 400 Watt lasers! It’s not as fast as the Series 5 1000W printer — reaching a maximum speed of 35 cubic centimeters per hour. But it does offer smaller layer thicknesses, starting from 20 up to 80 microns — which is nicer for printing smaller and finer objects while not being as fast as the 1000W printer.
One thing we weren’t super sold on was the design of the printer — its grey-and-blue color scheme makes it look something like a prop out of a 70s sci-fi show. But its functionality is great so…. Who cares? If it helps Captain Kirk and Spock 3D print a whole new fleet of spaceships, we’re all here for it.
3D Printer Type: SLM/DMLS | Materials: Stainless Steel, Super Alloys, Tooling Steels & Bronze | Build Volume: 127 x 127 x 127 mm
Printers on this list too big for you so far? Well, let’s shrink it down a bit to the Xact Metal XM200C. It’s a decent and robust printer that gives you fast production with a smaller footprint.
The XM200C uses a 100W laser that comes with a spot size of 20 microns, also offering an optional 200W laser if you need a bit more speed. It can print at an amazing 500 mm/s — pretty great!
It comes with a neat 7” touchscreen for easy access to controls. The bigger the touchscreen, the easier it is for our giant sausage fingers to actually be able to navigate the menu. So it’s sufficient for us.
It also comes with cloud monitoring capabilities, so if you are away from your home, lab, or workplace, you’ll still be able to see your print in progress!
The XM200C has a 127 x 127 x 127mm build volume — one of the smaller ones on this list. It’s quite lightweight at just 205kg, and so it’s easier to install in your lab or 3D printing workspace than some of the other gargantuan printers on this list.
And it’s even got 2 cameras that you can monitor your prints with on the printer’s touchscreen.
It also comes with a uniquely bulb-shaped recoating blade for spreading the powder. Better powder-spreading means your printer is making the most of the powder and using it effectively.
With this printer’s open platform architecture, just like with the NXG XII 600, you can develop your own printing parameters or use your own powder.
3D Printer Type: SLM | Materials: Stainless Steels, Nickel-Based Alloys, Aluminum Alloys & Tool Steel Alloys | Build Volume: Ød = 140 mm x 200 mm
The Alpha 140. It’s a great entry-level, affordable printer for small to medium-sized companies.
By the way, neat little fact — Kurtz Ersa is a 243 year old company based in Germany that manufactures traditional industrial tools and components. But they’ve recently branched out into 3D printing, coming out with the Alpha 140.
The Alpha 140 has a 200 W laser with a focus diameter of 110 microns. It’s also got layer thicknesses from 30 to 90 microns, as well as offering an XY resolution of around 100 microns, so it offers some pretty decent accuracy as well as speed.
The Alpha 140’s aptly-named slicer SliceAM can be integrated with AutoDesk Fusion 360, which is a CAD software aimed particularly at manufacturing and engineering applications.
It also comes with an open architecture system, so… mess with the parameters all you want! We appreciate the ability to fill out our own parameters, especially when working with potentially tricky materials like metal and metal alloy powders.
With a smaller footprint at just 1.6 x 0.9 x 1.5 m, this printer fits easily in most working environments that don’t just happen to be 1.6 x 0.9 x 1.5 m themselves. Nice!
Thanks to the affordability as well as great XY resolution and speed, this is a great first SLM 3D printer for smaller companies on a budget.
3D Printer Type: SLM | Materials: Stainless Steel, Cobalt-Chrome Alloy, Tool Steel, Titanium Alloy, High Temperature Alloy, Hastelloy & some precious Metals | Build Volume: 105 x 105 x 100 mm
The H3D LACM-100 is a printer made by Shanghai Hanbang United 3D Tech, a 3D printing company based in China. This is a neat printer if you want smaller, sturdy and accurate prints, especially for dental implants.
This is one of the smallest on this list in terms of build volume at just 105 x 105 x 100 mm. It’s also quite unique in that it doesn’t just use SLM but also ultra-fast micro-laser cutting to make you any tool or component you’re looking for! Nice.
In spite of its small size, the H3D LACM-100 can print complex geometries with high surface precision and less roughness. This comes in really handy for printing dental stuff.
Though this printer could work for other things like precise mold manufacturing, dies, and microstructures — anywhere you need to print small and accurate objects.
The H3D LACM-100 can work with stainless steel, cobalt-chrome alloy, tool steel, titanium, and so on. It comes with lasers of 200W for the SLM part and 50W for the laser-cutting part. It offers layer thicknesses of just 10 up to 40 microns. Smaller layer thicknesses are much more suited to smaller, finer applications — so in a nutshell, dental applications.
It also offers a relative density of printed parts of up to almost 100%, which means they are as sturdy as they are accurate. This is a great printer for mold manufacturing or dental implants.
What is SLM 3D Printing?
Time to take a look into lasers (wait, no don’t actually look into lasers) and metal powders. Get ready!
Basically, Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is a process that uses high-powered lasers to melt metal powder into the thing that you want to print. Metals like aluminum, copper, and nickel are turned into powders. They are stored in a chamber of the printer, where a blade will spread it thinly onto the powder bed.
The laser melts powdered material to make one layer. Then, the build plate lowers by the height of one layer, and the coater puts more powder. Repeat, and you’ve got yourself an SLM 3D printed part!
The laser power determines print speed — multiple or more powerful lasers mean faster printing.
SLM printers have enclosures that are filled with inert gasses like argon or nitrogen. This keeps a nice and toasty ideal environment to print in.
What Materials Used for Selective Laser Melting?
So there are metal powders… which are made of metals that have been turned into powders. Mind-blowing!
First off, we’ve got steel and iron alloys. They resist corrosion, they’re super strong, and they’re mostly used for medical implants, like in orthodontics. They’re biocompatible — which means acceptable for usage in the human body — and so they’re very suitable for medical applications.
Titanium alloys are often used for scaffolding and other such lightweight structures. Titanium is also a biocompatible material, so it’s often used for medical applications as well, like spinal cages.
Nickel alloys resist high temperatures, wear, and corrosion, and are really, really dense. They’re used mostly for aircraft engines and die casts for car parts.
Advantages of SLM 3D Printing
SLM 3D printing enables you to manufacture at crazy high speeds — and it can often be cheaper in the long run compared to traditional manufacturing.
There are a lot of industries that can benefit from it — mainly anyone who already manufactures metal parts.
You can also print complex shapes and geometries that are super sturdy and functional. You don’t have to ship parts from long distances or keep a bunch of stuff on hand if you need them — you can just print a fresh batch whenever necessary. Also, you can print multiple different parts at the same time.
There’s also the option to use a wide variety of materials and powders that may not be super easy to do when you’re working traditionally.
Disadvantages of SLM Printing
Now let’s look at the downsides. SLM 3D printers are expensive, and we mean expensive. So the cost of some of these printers can often be prohibitively high for smaller businesses.
Also, SLM 3D printers use lasers, which can often require and use up a LOT of energy. As for the SLM printed parts themselves, while they can be really accurate and take on some amazing shapes that just wouldn’t be possible with traditional manufacturing.
A common problem with SLM parts, however, is that they can have a lot of surface roughness and therefore need a lot of post-processing.
But generally, if your industry makes use of traditional metal manufacturing and needs to make lots of metal parts fast, SLM 3D printing is a really viable alternative to that and it can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
What is Selective Laser Melting Used For?
SLM is mostly used to make metal parts for aerospace, automotive, and medical industries.
With SLM you can make parts with complex shapes, mechanically sturdy and durable components, tools, as well as molds and dies for casting.
An example of usage in the medical industry: Doctors print spinal cages to help patients with back issues, and they can make them using biocompatible metal powders with SLM 3D printers. Wow!
Who Uses Selective Laser Melting 3D Printer?
Today, just about every industry that used to rely on traditional metal manufacturing is already using Selective Laser Melting technology. Examples of such industries are aerospace, cars, and medical. Also, just about anyone who needs to make lots of metal parts fast!
So SLM 3D printers aren’t really targeted to hobbyists unless your hobby includes making lots of metal parts really quickly — then perhaps a smaller printer can work for you. However, they’re super expensive, and usually not an essential thing if you’re not using it for work.
What is the Difference Between SLS and SLM?
SLS and SLM are both types of metal additive manufacturing, hence the confusion. Let’s clear this up.
Simply put, SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) sinters or fuses metals together. SLM actually melts them — hence the name, Selective Laser Melting. So SLS does NOT make metals reach their melting point, while SLM does.
Sintering is when you use heat or a laser to make powder become something solid. This doesn’t melt the powder, though. Sintering temperatures sit at about 85% of a material’s melting point.
So SLM does require higher temperatures than SLS, and therefore it requires a longer cooling time.
What To Consider When Buying A Selective Laser Melting 3D Printer
Here are the most important things to look at in terms of what makes an SLM 3D printer worth your while.
Speed and Laser Power
If you’re in production, you probably need a fast printer. Your printer’s laser power directly affects its print speed. Higher-powered lasers = faster print speed.
Single-laser printers have decent speed, but perhaps not enough for a medium to larger-sized production. In that case, go for the RenAM 500 printers, which have 4 500W lasers — if that’s not enough for you, the SLM Solutions NXG XII 600 would be a perfect fit.
Keep in mind that machines with more lasers are typically costlier than single-laser machines.
Accuracy and Print Quality
For smaller applications that require more accuracy, you want XY resolutions and a layer thickness of less than 100 microns. The smaller, the higher the accuracy and resolution.
Also, look for smaller focus diameters! Lasers with smaller focus diameters mean that you’re gonna get much more accuracy and precision — such as the 10 micron spot diameter of the SLM Solutions NXG XII 600.
Ease of Use
Though some of these printers can look terrifying and huge *cough* SLM Solutions *cough*, ideally they should be easy to use and navigate. That’s why most of these printers come with LCD touchscreens as well as a whole lot of documentation to make the whole process simple and easy to get, especially if you’re new to 3D printing.
Build Volume and Footprint
SLM 3D printers vary in shape and size. There are lots of options out there for smaller labs and workspaces. If you want a printer for big production, go for a printer with a bigger build volume.
This is a super important aspect of buying an SLM printer.
Consider what application you’re working with — is it making tools? Die casts? Dental or spinal implants? Aerospace or automotives? This all determines the type of metal powder you use, and you should make sure your chosen printer supports this metal powder. At this kind of price tag, it’s not a cheap mistake to make!
Always make sure you know how your chosen vendor deals with maintenance and printer repair! FDM printers may be easier to DIY with, but SLM printers are most definitely not.
So Which Selective Laser Melting 3D Printer Is The Best?
If you’re looking for a smaller printer, the H3D LACM-100 and the Xact Metal XM200C are both solid choices. The H3D LACM-100 is particularly suited to dental applications. Conversely, if you want a huge (and fast) SLM 3D printer, look no further than the SLM Solution NXG XII 600.
The Kurtz Ersa Alpha 140 is another smaller printer that’s great for entry-level users.
The RenAM 500 printer is, in our opinion, the best overall SLM printer and definitely worth buying if the price tag works for you.