Fifty years ago, lasers were seen as the height of technology. People imagined that they could do all sorts of things, from slicing through the toughest materials to zapping bad guys with their rays. In today’s era of technology, we have discovered that lasers can actually be used to do even more than we had hoped possible. You can get corrective eye surgery with lasers so that you do not need glasses. You can use lasers to scan fingerprints at a crime scene. One of the most common but most underappreciated uses for lasers is in manufacturing. Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) can be used in rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototyping is a process by which prototypes for machine parts are able to be created quickly. Since prototypes usually have a few rough edges that need smoothing out before they are finalized, it is essential to move the prototyping process along as quickly as possible. It is also vital to the prototyping process to get these parts made relatively cheaply so that you will not have to spend too much money on perfecting the part. DMLS is a process by which metal parts are quickly, affordably, and precisely formed, and it s one of the latest advances in prototyping technology.
The way that DMLS works is by harnessing the power of lasers to quickly sinter metal. It involves sintering powdered metal at twenty-micron layers. These layers are first traced along the X and Y axes before the build tray lowers twenty microns. The recoater then sweeps on another twenty-micron layer over the newly built base, which serves to sinter the new layer directly onto the base. These sintered layers also require support structures, which are also formed from sintered metal. To finish the rapid prototyping process, the parts then undergo heat treatment, support removal, shot peening, and other processes necessary to perfect the prototype.
Manufacturing technology is continuing to move steadily forward, making rapid prototyping a continually more efficient method to find more efficient ways to prototype parts. With innovations such as DMLS technology growing in popularity and in efficiency, manufacturers are able to build more efficient machines, which means that they are ultimately able to offer more affordable products to their customers without compromising their bottom line. It does require some investment to get a part right, but not nearly as much as it used to. Innovations like these are what keep industry moving forward at laser-fast speeds.