February 21, 2022 Last updated February 21st, 2022 1,377 Reads share

Difference Between FDM and SLS in 3D Printing

Image Credit: pixabay.com

If you want to get into printing, then there is a chance you have heard the terms FDM and SLS before. Knowing what they are all about will come in handy for you. You get to figure out which type of printing will work for you and whether you can afford to invest in it. Here are the main differences between FDM and SLS.


What is FDM?

One of the types of 3D printing is FDM 3D printing which is one of the oldest forms of printing in the market. Its full name is Fused Deposition Modeling, and it uses a thermoplastic filament, which is heated up and then extruded based on the 3D model the printer is working on. The FDM is the most common type of 3D printing that most newbies use because of its ease.

 What is SLS?

The other form of 3D Printing is SLS 3D printing. It stands for Selective Laser Sintering and uses a high-power laser to sinter polymer powder participles into a 3D model created beforehand. It is mostly used by engineers and needs slightly more skill to operate. You find SLS 3D printing in industrial settings.

What are the main differences between SLS and FDM?

Now that you know the definitions of each kind of printing, it is time to make a side-by-side comparison of the two and figure out which one would work for you. Here is everything you need to know.

The cost

One of the first things you need to look at is the cost of getting the printer to do the type of printing and the overall cost of running the printer once you buy it. Based on the uses, SLS printers and materials cost way more. That is why professionals mostly use them. FDM is the cheapest form of 3D printing, and many small-scale printing firms use that. If you plan to get an SLS printer, you might have to use more money. There only perks with this are you can sell the products of far much more than if you would get the FDM products.


The next thing you need to look at is the precision of the machine. The precision will determine how high-quality your products are, so you need to look into that. With FDM, as much as you get quality products, the precision needs a little bit more work. You cannot use FDM if you want to create parts that do not need extra attention after the printing. SLS, on the other hand, is more precise. With it, you get quality products that look great and can be used right after printing. It is why SLS is used in the aerospace and medical industries. Clients can trust it to bring out the exact product one needs.

Printing speeds

If you want to make the most out of your printing business, you need to get more products printed at a single time. In this context, the SLS printer takes the day. SLS is the perfect printing technique if you are pressed for time or want to print more items at any given time. If you are doing small-scale printing, you could choose to go with the FDM printer. It works okay, but you might need to be patient since the speeds are not as good.

Post printing processing

Another thing you need to look into is the work done after you are done printing. For both two methods, you will need to clean up the pieces before packing them for shipping. SLS parts can be cleaned out by pressurized air to remove any residue from the powdery polymer. On the other hand, FDM needs you to clean up by hand since it can be very fragile, and you might warp the plastic if it has dried up well. FDM has more clean-up work.


The main difference between these two types of printing is their usage. SLS is mostly known to be for commercial and industrial products. As such, it makes economic sense for you if you only picked it when planning to get into that field.   The cost of materials and all that will come back to you if you do so. On the other hand, FDM is mostly for newbies who are trying out 3D printing. The equipment and material are not that costly, and you can make everyday items without spending too much. If you have never done 3D printing before, you can start with FDM as you advance and then get SLS when you want to go commercial.


Understating the different kinds of printers and how they work will come in handy if you plan to buy one. The two types above are some of the commonly used ones. Figure out what works for you so you can get to printing.

Bijoy Hembram

Bijoy Hembram

Read Full Bio