DMLS vs. SLS: Which is Better for Your Needs?

3D printing technologies are changing the way parts for all industries are being made. The process allows the use of custom manufactured parts to create a working model from which CAD drawings can be made. While the most common forms of 3D printing involve a variety of molten plastics to achieve the finished product, both DMLS and SLS use powdered metal or metal alloys to create the required parts. This form of additive manufacturing varies slightly from the 3D printing used in the manufacture of plastic parts. DMLS and SLS both have their uses; which one is better for your needs depends on the parts you are making and your budget.   Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)   DMLS is a 3D printing technology that has been recognized as one of the most effective forms of additive manufacturing. DMLS can be used to create parts from a variety of metal alloys. This makes it more popular than many other 3D printing techniques that are designed to work with specific metal alloys or polymer-based materials.   One big advantage of DMLS is that custom manufactured parts made using this process tend to be free of the internal defects and residual stress that typically occur in parts that have been made using more traditional methods. This ability to create defect-free parts is critical when parts are to be used in a high-stress environment such as the automotive or aerospace industries. One of the biggest downsides to DMLS is the cost of a 3D metal printer.   Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)   Selective laser sintering, or SLS, is another form of additive manufacturing using the latest in 3D printing technology to create parts using a focused laser beam. Where DMLS is used with metal alloys to “print” the required parts, SLS is used to create parts from materials such as ceramics, glass, numerous types of plastics, and a selection of specialty metals.   The process of sintering heats the particles of your chosen medium to the point at which they fuse together, forming copies of those custom manufactured parts provided to you by your customer. Both DMLS and SLS use this process in the production of an incredible range of parts at a slightly lower cost. Unlike DMLS, the cost of the 3D printers used in this manufacturing process tend to be lower.     Which Is Better for Your Needs?   Both DMLS and SLS use similar 3D printing technologies to help create a range of custom manufactured parts. DMLS tends to be more useful in the manufacture of parts that need more detail and tend to be less structurally sound than those created using SLS.   However, the biggest difference between the two processes is the type of materials that can be used to “print” the required parts. SLS can be used with a variety of metals and non-metallic materials, whereas DMLS is designed to work solely with metals. To decide which is better, you need to know what materials you are working with and the industry in which you are working. Both can achieve incredible results and produce prototypes in days rather than weeks, which is what you may encounter with traditional CNC milling.   For more information on both DMLS and SLS, contact Additive Manufacturing at (877) 238-7907 and talk to our experts about your upcoming project.