Selective Laser Melting process (SLM) is an important manufacturing method for producing complex geometries which allows for creation of full density parts with similar properties as the bulk material without extensive post processing. In SLM process, laser power, beam focus diameter, and scanning velocity must be precisely set based on the material properties in order to produce dense parts. In this study, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) method is employed in order to simulate and analyze a single layer of 904L Stainless Steel. A three-dimensional transient thermal model of the SLM process based on phase change enthalpy, irradiation scattering, and heat conductivity of powder is developed. The laser beam is modeled as a moving heat flux on the surface of the layer using a fine mesh which allows for a variation of the shape and distribution of the beam. In this manner, various Gaussian distributions are investigated and compared against single and multi-element heat flux sources. The melt pool and temperature distribution in the part are numerically investigated in order to determine the effects of varying laser intensity, scanning velocity as well as preheating temperature. The results of the simulation are verified by comparing the melt pool width as a function of power and velocity against the experimentally obtained results. Lastly, 3D objects are fabricated with a SLM 50 Desktop machine using the acquired optimized process parameters.

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