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Direct Metal Laser Sintering – DMLS 3D Printing Services Now Available

 

Direct Metal Laser Sintering

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Direct Metal Laser Sintering, also known as DMLS, is an additive manufacturing technology that uses a precise, high wattage laser to weld metals and alloys on the micro scale. This process is able to create metal parts directly from 3D CAD data in layers without the need for traditional tooling. DMLS is a metal 3D printing process that utilizes a variety of metal and alloy materials such as stainless steel, cobalt-chrome, and Inconel alloy to create strong, durable parts and prototypes.

DMLS 3D printing is an excellent choice for producing functional metal prototypes and dense metal parts in a short time, with high precision. This process is particularly useful for complex part designs, light weighting, and producing functional custom metal parts in low volumes. We see this method used primarily in metal additive manufacturing for aerospace, marine, oil & gas and automobile applications.

How Direct Metal Laser Sintering Works

The DMLS process begins in the same fashion as other layer additive manufacturing technologies. A program takes 3D CAD data and slices it into 2D cross-sections. Each of these sections will act as a blueprint, telling the DMLS machine exactly where to sinter the metal material. The data is then transferred to the DMLS equipment to begin the process.

A decoder assembly pushes powdered metal material from the powder supply to create a uniform layer over the base plate. A laser then draws a 2D cross-section on the surface of the build material, heating and fusing the material.

Once a single layer is complete, the base plate is lowered just enough to make room for the next layer. More material is withdrawn from the cartridge and applied evenly from the previously sintered layer. The DMLS machine continues to sinter layer upon layer building from the bottom up. As the part is built, internal cavities and overhang structures are naturally supported by the powder below. Additional support structures may be added to give supplemental strength to overhanging surfaces.

The completed part is then removed from the machine and goes through an age hardening heat treatment processes to further harden the parts. Any support structures are also removed at this time.

DMLS 3D Printing Applications

DMLS is particularly useful when it comes to complex metal parts and geometries. Parts designed for DMLS 3D printing are fully functional and typically cannot be easily manufactured with another technology. DMLS 3D printed parts are heat-resistant, strong and durable. In fact, DMLS parts are even superior to cast metal parts in mechanical properties and density.

DMLS parts are being commonly used in aerospace industries, Oil & gas, dental, jewelry, orthopedics printed electronics, and automotive companies. DMLS parts are actively used for tooling, motor parts, fixtures, and cooling channels, etc. Some of the potential applications include control valves, fuel nozzle/housing parts, servo controlled valves, custom impellers/pumps, and stainless-steel brackets.

In the medical device industry, materials such as stainless steel, titanium, and superalloys like cobalt-chrome can be used even within highly regulated medical environments and conform to those requirements perfectly. DMLS technology plays an important role in the prosthesis and implants industry as well. Prosthetic limbs manufacturing has to take the patient’s individual anatomy into account and DMLS has enabled us to produce parts customized to the patient’s needs.

DMLS 3D Printed Parts

Advantages of DMLS 3D Printing

DMLS has enormous advantages over traditional manufacturing techniques especially when it comes to metal prototypes and functional parts. Below are some of the major advantages of DMLS.

  • Freedom of Design
    • DMLS is able to produce complex metal parts that are otherwise not producible using traditional methods.
  • Complexity without Cost
    • Increasing the object complexity will only increase production costs marginally. Hence manufacturing of complex shapes with DMLS becomes cheaper than traditional manufacturing processes.
  • Potential Elimination of Tooling
    • You get industrial production-ready parts without the need for expensive and time-consuming tooling and post-processing.
  • Lightweight design
    • DMLS enables you to produce lightweight parts when compared to traditional processes by utilizing topological optimization.
  • Elimination of Production Steps
    • Complex objects can be produced in a single process, reducing production costs.
  • Strong and Functional
    • Metal parts manufactured by DMLS are extremely durable and have high strength-to-weight ratios. High strength materials like stainless steel, titanium, Inconel and copper-chrome are typically used. This range of high strength materials ensures DMLS parts are ready to use in real-world applications.
  • Rapid Prototyping and Lower Costs
    • Prototypes and metal parts can be manufactured in a matter of hours, making Direct Metal Laser Sintering much faster than alternative methods and perfect for rapid prototyping. Furthermore, nearly zero material is wasted. Unused material can be recycled, which can make the whole process cheaper than manufacturing with traditional subtractive methods.
DMLS Process

There are nearly endless operation opportunities to use DMLS processing for metal additive manufacturing and 3D printing applications. Contact us to discuss your next DMLS 3D printing project.