What is Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)?
What is Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS)?
Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) is a common 3D printing or additive manufacturing technique that is also referred to as selective laser melting (SLM). In this process, each layer of a part is created by aiming a laser at the powder bed in specific points in space, guided by a digitally produced CAD (computer-aided design) file. Once a layer is printed, the machine spreads more powder over the part and repeats the process. The process is ideal for printing precise, high-resolution parts with complex geometries. DMLS machines use a laser to heat the particulate matter to its melting point in a digital process that eliminates the need for physical molds. The resulting parts are accurate, have excellent surface quality and near-wrought mechanical properties.
DMLS printers are recommended when you want to print a limited number of industrial items that are otherwise difficult or impossible to fabricate because of hollow spaces, undercuts, challenging angles, and other complexities. DMLS is ideal for low-volume parts and when you want to avoid the time and expense of creating a tooling. DMLS parts can be stored digitally and printed on demand, which reduces inventory costs and increases design flexibility.
DMLS Printing Advantages and Disadvantages
DMLS is great for producing unique shapes and designs with stable mechanical and material properties. There is relatively wide material availability and the machines are repeatable once a part is printed successfully.
While effective, DMLS machines are notoriously difficult to purchase and operate. They require skilled operators, supporting machines (like EDM machines), and powder managements. Because the process his so high-energy, machines often require a process of trial and error before producing accurate and functional parts.
History of DMLS Printing
DMLS was originated in 1995 at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) in Germany as the result of a German research project. As the process grew in application, a company was formed by Dr. Dieter Schwarze and Dr. Matthias Fockele, who worked together with other ILT research members to develop the commercial technology in use today.
What is the difference between DMLS vs SLM? SLM and DMLS refer to the same additive manufacturing (3D printing) process. The terms are used interchangeably.
How thick are the layers created by DMLS? Every 3D printer and each project is different, but typically the layers of material are between 16 and 150 micrometers in height.
How do parts made by DMLS compare to cast parts? Parts that are printed using direct metal laser sintering are stronger, denser, and can be more precise than casted metal parts.
What kinds of metal are used in DMLS 3D printing? A wide variety of metals and metal alloys can be used in DMLS printing, including stainless steel, aluminum, nickel alloys, titanium, copper, tungsten, and others.
Why use SLS vs DMLS? SLS is used in small production runs of plastic machine parts, delicate or geometrically complex items and that require high accuracy. DMLS is used in manufacturing metal parts.
What is the difference between sintering vs melting? Sintering heats powdered substances at a temperature below the melting point, and maintains that heat until the particles join by atomic fusion. Melting takes the heat a step higher so that finely powdered material fuses by melting.