What's the Difference?

Selective laser sintering (SLS) and selective laser melting (SLM) are both additive manufacturing processes that use a laser to fuse powdered materials together layer by layer. However, there are some key differences between the two techniques. SLS is typically used with materials like nylon, while SLM is used with metals such as aluminum or titanium. SLS is often used for rapid prototyping and creating functional parts, while SLM is more commonly used for producing end-use parts with high strength and durability. Additionally, SLM typically produces parts with higher accuracy and resolution compared to SLS.


DefinitionService Level AgreementService Level Specification
FocusAgreement between service provider and customerSpecification of service levels by provider
ScopeOverall service provisionSpecific service levels
ResponsibilityShared between provider and customerProvider's responsibility
FlexibilityMay be negotiableUsually fixed

Further Detail


When it comes to 3D printing technologies, two popular methods that are often compared are Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). Both of these technologies have their own unique attributes and advantages, making them suitable for different applications. In this article, we will delve into the key differences between SLA and SLS, exploring their strengths and weaknesses.


One of the main differences between SLA and SLS lies in the materials they use. SLA printers utilize liquid photopolymer resins that are cured using a UV laser. These resins come in a variety of types, including standard, flexible, and castable resins, allowing for a wide range of applications. On the other hand, SLS printers use powdered materials such as nylon, polyamide, and thermoplastic elastomers. This gives SLS the advantage of being able to print with a wider range of materials compared to SLA.

Accuracy and Resolution

When it comes to accuracy and resolution, SLA typically offers higher precision compared to SLS. This is because SLA printers use a laser to cure the resin layer by layer, resulting in smooth and detailed prints. SLS, on the other hand, uses a laser to sinter powdered materials, which can sometimes lead to a rougher surface finish. However, advancements in SLS technology have improved its resolution over the years, narrowing the gap between the two technologies.


In terms of speed, SLS has the upper hand over SLA. SLS printers can produce parts faster since they do not require support structures like SLA printers do. This is because the powdered materials in SLS act as their own support, allowing for more efficient printing. On the other hand, SLA printers need to use support structures to prevent the resin from collapsing during the printing process, which can slow down the overall printing speed.


Post-processing is an important consideration when comparing SLA and SLS. SLA prints typically require more post-processing steps compared to SLS prints. This is because SLA prints need to be cleaned and cured after printing to remove excess resin and ensure proper curing. SLS prints, on the other hand, require minimal post-processing since the excess powder can be easily removed. This makes SLS a more efficient option when it comes to post-processing.

Strength and Durability

When it comes to strength and durability, SLS prints are generally considered to be stronger than SLA prints. This is because SLS prints are made from powdered materials that are fused together, resulting in a more solid and robust final product. SLA prints, on the other hand, can be more brittle since they are made from cured resin. However, with the right material selection and post-processing techniques, SLA prints can also achieve high levels of strength and durability.


Cost is another important factor to consider when choosing between SLA and SLS. SLA printers are typically more affordable than SLS printers, making them a popular choice for hobbyists and small businesses. Additionally, SLA resins tend to be cheaper than SLS powders, further reducing the overall cost of printing. On the other hand, SLS printers are more expensive upfront and require a higher operating cost due to the use of powdered materials. However, the higher cost of SLS may be justified for certain applications that require the strength and versatility of SLS prints.


In conclusion, both SLA and SLS have their own unique attributes and advantages that make them suitable for different applications. SLA offers higher precision and smoother surface finishes, making it ideal for detailed prototypes and small-scale production. On the other hand, SLS provides faster printing speeds, stronger prints, and a wider range of materials, making it a preferred choice for functional prototypes and end-use parts. Ultimately, the choice between SLA and SLS will depend on the specific requirements of the project, including materials, accuracy, speed, strength, and cost.

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