In this work, the additive manufacturing process selective laser melting is analysed with the aim of realising a complex piece for aerospace applications. In particular, the effect of the manufacturing process and of the following thermal treatments on the dimensions of the workpiece is evaluated. The study is based on a hybrid approach including a simulation of the whole manufacturing process by advanced software packages and the dimensional measurements of the realised pieces taken by a coordinate measuring machine (CMM). The integrated use of simulation and measurements is carried out with the aim of validating the simulation results and of identifying the operational limits of both approaches; this analysis is based on metrological evaluation of the results of both the simulation and the tests, taking into account the uncertainty of the data. In addition, the main causes of uncertainty for the simulation activity and the experimental data have been identified, and the effects of some of them have also been experimentally evaluated. Based on the experimental validation, the simulation seems to predict the absolute displacement of the supports of the piece in a satisfactory way, while it is unable, in the actual configuration, to assess the conformity of the surface to its very tight shape tolerances. Conformity assessment of the surface should be carried out by CMM measurement. Integrated use of simulation and experimental results is expected to strongly improve the accuracy of simulation results for the effective and accurate design and control of the additive manufacturing process, including dimensional control and thermal treatments to mitigate induced thermal stresses.
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