Additive-manufacturing (AM) specialist SLM Solutions is using its branch office in Moscow to tap aerospace and other AM markets in the troubled but resource-rich Russian market.

Stefan Ritt, marketing manager and physicist, says SLM and its predecessor company have worked in aerospace since the 1960s and introduced selective laser melting for AM in 2000. The company has grown from a staff of 50 10 years ago to a 280-strong workforce today, bringing in €66 million ($74.3 million) a year after an initial public offering (IPO) in 2014 that raised €90 million. It has produced 100 SLM machines.

The Moscow branch office opened in February.

The selective laser technique reuses all but about 5% of its powder, can make complex shapes without additional cost, and harmonizes with traditional methods as it uses the same basic metals. OEMs can machine, polish and otherwise process selective laser melting parts just as they would pieces that are manufactured conventionally. In contrast, Ritt argues, other AM methodscsuch as, electron beam melting and direct metal deposition, waste more of the high-priced AM powder, can clog machines or produce rougher surfaces.

And SLM Solutions maintains that it has the fastest selective laser machine, using four lasers simultaneously. SLM handles the full cycle of powder use, with extracted powder automatically recycled into production. The company’s 500 X 280 X 360-mm machine weighs only two tons, one-third as much as a competitive offering. “We can go on the second floor, unlike our competitor’s,” Ritt says.

Short-term, Ritt sees AM producing brackets, clamps and other secondary parts, along with injection nozzles in engines. In the future, he says engine-makers want to print hot-section parts. Here the objective is using AM to make parts that can self-cool with hollow internal channels that will also reduce the weight of turning parts.

According to Ritt, SLM’s current machine is large enough to build 80% of requested parts. He notes that larger AM machines will encounter economic limits when factoring in time requirements and temperature gradients associated with AM processes..