Make Sense of the World of Rapid Prototyping
Bewildered by the many technologies available today for rapid prototyping? You’re not alone. Without an apples-to-apples comparison, it is hard to know which will work best for you. Explore the section below to see with your own eyes how they compare with one another. You may just be surprised at what you find!
While stereolithography (SL) is the oldest of all the RP technologies, it remains the gold standard for overall accuracy, surface finish and resolution. It uses an ultraviolet laser focused to a small point, drawing on the surface of a liquid thermoset resin. Where it draws, the liquid turns to solid. This is repeated in thin, 2-dimensional cross-sections that are layered to form complex 3-dimensional parts. Material properties are typically inferior to those of SLS, but the surface finish and detail are unmatched.
Detail • Accuracy • Smoothest finish
Selective Laser Sintering
SLS uses a CO2 laser that draws onto a hot bed of thermoplastic powder. Where it draws, it lightly sinters the powder into a solid. After each layer, a roller lays a fresh layer of powder on top of the bed and the process repeats. Since SLS uses actual engineering thermoplastics, its parts exhibit greater toughness.
Selective Laser Sintering's Strengths
Strong • Tough • Durable
Direct Metal Laser Sintering
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) is an additive manufacturing technology that produces metal prototypes and production-quality parts. DMLS uses a Yb:YAG fiber laser system that draws onto a surface of atomized metal powder. Where it draws, it welds the powder into a solid. After each layer, a blade adds a fresh layer of powder and repeats the process. DMLS can use most alloys, allowing prototypes to be functional hardware made out of the same material as production components. Since the components are built layer by layer, it is possible to design internal features and passages that could not be cast or otherwise machined. DMLS is among the newest technology of our precision rapid prototyping services, producing full-strength metal parts with the same ease and speed as plastic parts.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering's Strengths
High Accuracy and Detail Resolution • Good Surface Quality • Excellent Mechanical Properties