Cutting Edge Technology Entrepreneurship

MICA Freeform VS. SLM Manufacturing

MICA Freeform is a manufacturing process that’s used by Microfabrica Inc. to help create precise, sturdy 3D printing. This process can be beneficial to those companies who rely on miniaturization when it comes to medical devices, semiconductor prototypes, etc. SLM stands for selective laser melting and improves the mechanical properties melted into the desired shape. But what’s the difference between Mica Freeform and SLM? Is one more advantageous than the other? 

How MICA Freeform Works

The process of MICA Freeform works when the material being used gets deposited at the atomic level. This 2D shape is then created using a patterned photoresist. As a process, the MICA Freeform can be a more expensive option and in effect, requires additional tooling. This can often increase the time when it comes to the printing process. 

Manufacturers like Microfabrica use this process to help fabricate high precision metal parts that are on the sub-millimeter scale. When it comes to functional end-use, 3D printed parts have certainly seen an increase in its need and popularity. With a growing need for micro metal parts to be used in technology, science, and medical fields, this type of process can provide that. 

How SLM Manufacturing Works

With selective laser melting, it’s a powder bed fusion technology. It works by focusing a laser beam that melts layers of fine metal powder particles. This is done according to cross-sectional profiles from a 3D design to help manufacture 3D components. 

With high-power density lasers, it helps to fully melt and fuse metallics powders to near full density designs. SLM has been used previously in helping to fabricate aerospace components made from various materials, whether that’s steels, alloys, or NI-based superalloys.

The Differences Between MICA Freeform & SLM Manufacturing

When it comes to the differences between the two, SLM can offer a much wider selection of materials that are used. It’s also capable of printing larger components a lot faster. Offering a simpler process setup, and faster cycle time, it’s become highly sought after in several fields including dentistry. 

However, MICA Freeform can produce more ultra-precise forms parts that are well defined. The main advantage that manufacturers like Microfabrica have touched on is that they’re able to manufacture more functional, multicomponent mechanisms, ruling out the need for assembly of the part itself. 

For SLM although it offers a wider variety of printing materials and larger components, the finish isn’t quite the same that MICA Freeform provides. It seems that SLM manufacturing is great for larger components but for those who are after miniaturization that is highly precise in its printing and definition, the MICA Freeform process is still superior. 

With submillimeter manufacturing, combining multiple metals helps with the advancements of technology and the need for micro components across multiple fields. Despite their differences, they both greatly benefit a variety of industries and with manufacturers using the MICA Freeform process, many advancements are likely to be made in important fields such as the medical industry.

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