With improvements in the 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing industry, can the Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) process replace conventional subtractive manufacturing processes such as CNC milling? Has this type of 3D Printing technology been effective at keeping up with tolerances equal to high tolerance CNC machines? It seems that there are several constraints still present with DMLS, one of which being tolerancing and the other being build size. Build sizes have been increasingly getting larger so that batches of parts can be created at once or creating a single large part is no longer an issue. The various types of materials available with this process are continuously becoming more available. The most typical materials used with DMLS are aluminum, stainless steel, steel, and other alloys. So with a larger build size, and more availability of materials, how does tolerancing stack up? For most applications with a tolerance level of +/- .005″ – .015″, the DMLS process may be a good choice, but for anything less than .005″, will it be effective?
Speed is often times a critical factor in project success, so does the build time of DMLS using less material compare better or worst against conventional machining which creates parts at a faster rate but generates more material waste?
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