Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) has distinct advantages like
- Speed and accuracy
- Fine feature detail
DMLS applications include functional prototypes (prototypes used for functional tests), high temperature applications (for manufacturing parts that can withstand high heat) and end use parts (low volume production without tooling expense), it can also be used to manufacture fast inserts for injection mold tools.
The process combines 3D CAD models and specialized printing machines that sinter metal powders. It facilitates highly complex geometries including spiraled or curved shapes with cavities and undercuts. Metals that can be used in these applications include aluminum, stainless steel and titanium.
Turnaround time, as expected, is often much faster than using conventional methods for producing metal shapes. Depending upon the size of the desired 3D prototype, a finished part can be made within just a few hours.
DMLS process commences with creation of a 3D model, using a CAD workstation and .stl file extracted from the model. The model is utilized by the operating technician to properly align the geometry and add support structures. The prepared model is used for creating 2D slices which are then scanned into the software used by the rapid prototyping machine.
Layers of fine, thin metal powder are fused at high temperatures to form a solid rapid prototyping metal similar to the SLS process for plastics. The components are created layer-by-layer, resulting in a time-effective and relatively inexpensive 3D prototyping.
The technology allows for creation of prototypes using most alloys. It simplifies the assembling of the 3D modeled parts, eliminating the need to involve special tooling. Short production runs create a highly productive manufacturing line. Patterns such as investment casting and sand casting along with DMLS have contributed in making rapid prototyping make headway.
For extracting benefit of the DMLS to the full, the part geometry needs to be designed innovatively, without transplanting from another manufacturing technique. The additive process is rapidly gaining long overdue acceptance.