Many of today’s 3D printers in use around the world – and most of those designed specifically for home use – build up layer upon layer of a plastic compound in order to create the desired object. Direct metal laser sintering is different; it allows a 3D printer to create metal components that are difficult to manufacture on traditional assembly lines.
How Does It Work?
Direct metal laser sintering is similar to traditional 3D printing processes in that the components are created over time in very thin layers called “slices”. However, instead of layers of plastic, the direct laser metal sintering method utilizes a high-temp laser that actually melts powdered metal. The machine first lays a layer of powder, and then the laser comes along and melts that layer to the previous one, forming a solid component. It does this over and over again until the desired component has been created. This technique has been used in a variety of industries, including aerospace engineering, motorsports, tooling, and mechanical engineering.
Reasons Why Direct Metal Laser Sintering Is Better than Other Options
Direct metal laser sintering is a better choice than machining or casting, and this is true in just about every single industry. While there’s no denying that casting and machining can create high-quality products, the direct metal laser sintering process is safer; it allows you to safely handle high temperature metals and alloys that could cause some significant problems in the machining process.
There are a few other advantages to this method, too.
- Casting or machining leaves very little room for intricacy. Pouring, cutting, and shaping small holes or identification numbers on a part is problematic in many manufacturing scenarios. What’s more, it’s impossible to cast or machine internal structures in fine detail.
- It is possible to build a product with mechanical properties that are superior to anything that has been cast or machined thanks to enhanced detail.
- It’s possible to 3D print components using only the materials that are absolutely necessary for those components. This eliminates waste; in fact, direct metal laser sintering creates only a tenth of the waste of other processes. This can actually save you money, especially when it comes to expensive materials.
What Kinds of Metals Are Available?
The direct metal laser sintering process can use any number of metals and alloys that will hold up well under certain conditions. Different metals are common in different industries, as well. Some examples include:
- Nickel Alloy IN625, which is a nickel-chromium alloy used in the motorsports and aerospace industries.
- Stainless Steel 316L, a type of stainless steel alloy that resists corrosion for use in medical, aerospace, and lifestyle settings.
- Cobalt Chrome CoCrMo, which is a “super alloy” used for high-temperature applications in the biomedical and engineering fields.
Direct metal laser sintering is quickly becoming the method of choice for creating parts and components that are difficult to manufacture by casting or machining. Not only are the components created in this way far more precise, they can actually help save money by reducing waste along the way.