Direct Metal Laser Sintering
from: RepRap: "Direct Metal Laser Sintering- Build Steel Parts for CHEAP"
Process: Utilizing the DMLS process, metal parts of the most complex geometries are built layer-by-layer (down to 20 microns) directly from 3D CAD data, automatically, without tooling. The parts have excellent mechanical properties, high detail resolution and exceptional surface quality. The process melts the metal powder entirely, creating a fine, homogenous structure.
Benefits: DMLS enables the formation of cavities and undercuts which, with conventional methods, can only be produced with great difficulty, if at all. Additionally, when a part needs to be tested and re-designed over and over, the lead time for receiving a traditionally tooled part can create a large bottleneck in the final production process. Previously, casting the part was the only traditional means of bypassing this process. However castings had limitations and depending on the functional needs of the prototype, a cast part could possibly fail if performance tests are desired on the prototype.
Now, GPI reduces the design phase timeline from weeks to days for the delivery of parts, allowing time for multiple redesigns and builds. Depending on size and geometries, in some cases the turnaround time for a part can be as little as a few hours. Furthermore, these parts can undergo functional testing in the environment for which they were designed. This technology opens up the ability for designers to imagine the impossible solution, because it is now possible with DMLS.