Skip to content
3D Printing Certification

Which one should you choose ?


Lucie Gaget on Jul 23, 2019 |

3D Printing certification or Additive Manufacturing certification refers to a group of technologies used to build three-dimensional objects. Depending on your project’s characteristics, the object you need to print, and the quality and cost required, one 3D printing certification technology might be more suitable than the others.

Currently, the most used technologies are FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) but what are the main differences between FDM and SLS processes?


Industrial 3D printing certification

Although there are professional and industrial  FDM 3D Printers, most printers of this type are consumer-grade printers, meaning that they are the most affordable kind of 3D printers and are mostly oriented towards a moderate printing frequency for one or a few users. On the other side, most  SLS printers are professional 3D printers or industrial ones. Their cost represents a significant investment but they can handle thousands of high-quality prints per week on uninterrupted production.

If you’re curious about 3D printing certification but don’t own a 3D printer, you might be wondering if investing in a 3D printer is worth it. If you do, you are probably also thinking about the printing quality, the costs involved and the main characteristics of these two completely different technologies.  For those of you who are in that situation, here you will find a side-by-side comparison of what you can get with each type of printer!


FDM vs SLS – The Showdown

As mentioned above, the Fused Deposition Modeling technology allows you to land in the 3D printing certification world in an affordable way, which is a big advantage, especially for individuals that usually don’t have a company’s budget. The core reason for this lies in the relatively simple concept behind FDM printers, which is to melt a plastic filament while positioning it in a structured way, layer by layer. That simple fact turned Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) into the most popular printing technology and flooded the market with inexpensive and relatively easy-to-use desktop FDM 3D printers that can create objects in short lead time. 

On the other hand, Selective Laser Sintering technology allows to 3D print an object by selectively sintering (ie. forming a solid mass of material by heating it but without reaching liquefaction) sections of successive layers of powder, placed on a powder bed, using a powerful laser beam. This 3D printing certification process most notably discards the need for support material (as there is unsintered powder all around the object being printed) facilitating the creation of complex and interlocking forms. This significantly more complex technology will cost the owner between 150 000 and 500 000 euros.  Thankfully, everyone can still have access to the benefits of SLS technology without the need to purchase a printer by using a professional 3D printing certification service like Sculpteo.


If you want to discover more about these technologies you can have a look at our 3D Printers and 3D Printing certification: Technologies, Processes and Techniques page.


The capabilities of FDM and SLS can be analyzed and compared separately for three gradually increasing object complexities: 

  1. Minimum complexity is a simple-shaped object with small or no overhangs.  A spinning top will be our example object for this category.
  2. Middle complexity can be an object with a few overhangs or articulated parts that need to be printed all at once already assembled. For this category, we have chosen a 3D fabric similar to the ones used by the fashion industry, as Danit Peleg did with her 3D printed collection.
  3. High complexity is an object that may have many large overhangs, thin sections, overhangs in places difficult to access to remove support material or may not have a stable standing position to be printed on. For this case, we went with a Springy ball, which almost checks all characteristics on our list. 

The head-to-head comparison done below was completed with the following machines, 3D printing certification materials and settings:

FDM: Stratasys MOJO and Makerbot Replicator Printers, with a layer thickness between 150 and 200 microns,  printing with P430 ABS PLUS and SR-30 Soluble material on the Mojo and PLA on the Makerbot.

SLS: EOS P110 Printer with a layer thickness of 150 microns, printing white Polyamide (also known as SLS Nylon PA12). This is the most commonly used material for SLS printing.


Minimum complexity – The Tippe Top



 The FDM Top                                                                            

The SLS Top 


The FDM Top: Due to the curved bottom of the design the top was split into two parts with the purpose of simplifying the printing. It could have been printed in several ways using support material, hence avoiding the use of glue altogether but doing that would render it impossible to print for the majority of the desktop FDM 3D printers, that don’t have a dual extruder and consequently…