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How Does DMLS Work?

Metal 3D Printing

While metal 3D printing may be relatively new to the additive manufacturing industry, the technology’s evolution since its inception has been remarkable. Metal 3D printing, in a very short time, has added value to a wide range of industries from manufacturing, to medical, to automotive, to aerospace and everything in between. This technology is being used to aid in product development workflows, rapid prototyping, tooling, education and the creation of fully functional end-use parts.

Despite the evolution of metal 3D printing technologies, or even the emergence of new ones, the tried-and-true technology of direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) continues to be a popular solution for manufacturing. Let’s take a more detailed look at DMLS, how it works and some of its advantages.

How Does It Work

The first step in any 3D printing project is creating a digital 3D model of the part that is to be printed. Digital 3D models can be created using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software to model the part from scratch. A 3D scanner can be used to create a 3D model by generating a digital point cloud or triangular mesh if a physical part already exists

The digital model is then loaded into a slicing program that will analyze the model and create the instructions that the 3D printer will use to build the finished part layer-by-layer. Once the slicing operation is complete, the file is sent to the 3D printer. The process is fairly automated, other than some general setup.

Once the print run is initiated, a thin layer of powder is then dispersed across the build area. Next, the laser is projected onto the material and then it follows the path for that layer based on the results of the slicing program.

Only the particles in the path of the laser are melted together. This process is repeated layer-by-layer, until the part has been completely printed. After a cooling period, the powder that was not melted, can be cleared from the build area and the part can be removed.

Advantages of Direct Metal Laser Solidification/Melting

  • Minimized Waste //Additive manufacturing only uses the material required to build the part, so there is minimal waste and decreased material costs.
  • Stronger Parts with Reduced Weight //Metal is inherently stronger than plastic and the DMLS/DMLM process can lead to topology optimization and reduced weight.
  • Complex Geometries //DMLS/DMLM can create complex geometric parts and assemblies that would not be possible by using traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Potential for Fewer Parts //DMLS/DLML leave open opportunity to create fully formed parts in one pass, whereas conventional methods might require several steps/pieces or sub-assemblies which then must be assembled together to form the final part.
  • Wide Range of Metallic Materials to Choose From //Stainless steel, maraging steel, Inconelaluminum, titanium, other materials available on demand. 
  • Turnaround Time //Unlike traditional manufacturing methods, there is no tooling to be created or equipment setup, which leads to quicker turnaround times. 

The experts at Fathom can help with all aspects of your metal 3D printing projects. Talk to us today to see how DMLS can add value to your operations.

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