SLS, SLA, and FDM 3D Printing

A Comparison of SLS, SLA, and FDM 3D Printing Technologies

3D printing has revolutionized the manufacturing industry, enabling the creation of complex designs and functional parts with ease. There are several 3D printing technologies available, each with its own strengths and limitations. In this blog post, we will compare three popular 3D printing technologies:

Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). By understanding the differences between these technologies, you can choose the best option for your specific needs. In this SLA vs SLS vs FDM review, we explore the differences.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

When making a 3d print comparison of SLA, SLS, FDM , the first thing to look at is SLS. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a 3D printing technology that uses a high-powered laser to selectively fuse powdered materials together. This process allows for the creation of complex designs and parts with excellent mechanical properties. One of the key advantages of SLS is its ability to print without the need for support structures, as the powder acts as a self-supporting material. However, SLS printers generally have smaller print volumes compared to FDM machines.

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) is another popular 3D printing technology that uses a process known as photopolymerization. A liquid resin is exposed to a light source, usually a laser or UV light, which causes the resin to solidify layer by layer. SLA technologies printers offer high accuracy and exceptional surface quality, making them suitable for detailed prototypes, dental models, and jewelry. However, SLA prints often require the use of support structures, which need to be manually removed after printing.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is the most widely and one of the best 3d printing technology which is often used by hobbyists and professionals alike. FDM works by extruding molten thermoplastic filament through a nozzle, which then solidifies layer by layer.

FDM printers are known for their affordability and accessibility, making them a popular choice for beginners. Additionally, FDM offers versatility in material options, allowing for a wide range of applications. However, FDM prints generally have lower resolution and accuracy compared to SLA or SLS. FDM printers are also capable of handling larger print volumes, making them suitable for rapid prototyping and large-scale projects.

A Comprehensive Comparison

To help you make an informed decision, let’s compare SLA, SLS, and FDM across various factors.

Resolution and Accuracy

SLA and SLS technologies offer higher resolution and accuracy compared to FDM. SLA printers can achieve layer heights as low as 25 microns, producing smooth and highly detailed prints. SLS technology also offers excellent resolution, with layer heights ranging from 50 to 100 microns. In contrast, FDM printers typically have larger layer heights, ranging from 100 to 300 microns. This means that SLA and SLS are better suited for applications where intricate details and fine surface finishes are required, such as dental models, jewelry, and prototypes for high-precision components.

Surface Quality

SLA produces prints with exceptionally smooth and detailed surfaces, thanks to the liquid resin’s ability to create intricate geometries with minimal visible layer lines. SLS can achieve similar results by adjusting the printing parameters, such as laser power and scanning speed. However, FDM prints may exhibit visible layer lines due to the nature of the extrusion process. Post-processing techniques like sanding or applying surface coatings can be used to improve the 3d printing surface quality of FDM prints.

Material Compatibility

Each 3D printing technology has its own range of compatible materials. SLA primarily uses liquid photopolymer resins, which come in various formulations, including standard, flexible, tough, and transparent resins. SLS relies on powdered materials, such as nylon, polyamide, and polypropylene. These powders can also be infused with additives to enhance their mechanical properties. FDM technology offers the widest range of material options, including PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, and more. This versatility makes FDM popular for functional parts, prototypes, and even specialized filaments like carbon fiber-infused materials.

Print Volume

SLS printers generally have smaller build volumes compared to FDM machines. SLS machines are often used for producing smaller parts or intricate components. On the other hand, FDM printers come in various sizes, with some models offering build volumes as large as 500mm x 500mm x 500mm or even larger. This makes FDM the preferred choice for printing larger parts or objects that require a significant build volume.

Support Structures and Post-Processing

SLA and FDM printing technologies often require the use of support structures to prevent overhangs or bridges from collapsing during the printing process. These support structures need to be manually removed after printing, which can be time-consuming and may leave behind surface imperfections on the final print. SLS, however, does not require support structures as the unfused powder acts as its own support during printing. This eliminates the need for post-processing support removal, resulting in cleaner and more efficient prints.

Application Areas and Industries

SLA finds applications in industries such as automotive, aerospace, healthcare, and jewelry design, where high accuracy and precision are crucial. The ability to produce detailed prototypes, dental models, and customized consumer goods makes SLA a popular choice. SLS technology is widely used for functional prototypes, manufacturing tooling, and low-volume production of end-use parts. The strength and durability of SLS-printed components make them suitable for applications in automotive, aerospace, and engineering fields. FDM, being versatile and accessible, is commonly used in various industries, including education, consumer goods, rapid prototyping, and even architectural modeling. Its lower cost and wide range of material options make it a popular choice for hobbyists, small businesses, and educational institutions.

SLS vs SLA Printer

When comparing two popular types of 3D printers, there are key differences to consider. SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) and SLA (Stereolithography) printers utilize distinct processes. SLS printers employ a laser to selectively fuse powdered materials, like plastic or metal, layer by layer. This allows for a wide range of material compatibility and is particularly well-suited for functional prototypes and end-use parts.

On the other hand, SLA printers use a laser or UV light to cure liquid resin, resulting in highly detailed and smooth prints. SLA is often chosen for applications that require high precision and intricate designs. Both SLS and SLA printers offer unique benefits, and the choice between them depends on specific project requirements and desired outcomes.

SLA vs SLS 3D Printer

It’s important to assess your specific requirements, including resolution, surface quality, material properties, and application needs when choosing between SLA and SLS. Both technologies have their advantages and are suitable for different applications within various industries.

By considering these factors, you can determine which 3D printing technology is best suited for your specific needs. Whether you prioritize resolution, surface quality, material compatibility, print volume, support structure requirements, or industry applications, each technology has its strengths and limitations. Take your requirements and objectives into account to make an informed decision and unlock the full potential of 3D printing in your projects.

When it comes to comparing FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) and SLA (Stereolithography) new 3D printing technologies, there are a few key factors to consider.

3D Printing SLA vs SLS

When comparing SLA vs SLS printing, one notable difference lies in the printing process. SLA relies on a laser or UV light to cure liquid resin, while SLS selectively fuses powdered particles using a powerful laser. SLA typically offers higher resolution and smoother surface finishes than SLS due to the liquid resin’s ability to create intricate details.

On the other hand, SLS is favored for its wider range of material compatibility, including plastic, metal, and glass powders. Both technologies have their strengths and are used in various industries for different applications, making it crucial to consider specific project requirements when choosing 3D printing SLS vs SLA.


Printing Process

FFF technology involves extruding thermoplastic filament through a nozzle, layer by layer, to create an object. On the other hand, SLA technology uses a laser or UV light to cure liquid resin layer by layer, creating a solid object.

Resolution and Accuracy

SLA typically offers higher resolution and accuracy compared to FFF. SLA can produce fine details and smooth surfaces, making it suitable for applications that require high precision. FFF, while capable of producing functional parts, may have visible layer lines and lower resolution.

Surface Quality

SLA prints generally have better surface quality due to the nature of the curing process. The liquid resin allows for smoother finishes, while FFF prints may require post-processing to achieve similar results.

Material Compatibility

FFF technology offers a wide range of thermoplastic filaments, including PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, and more. These materials have varying properties such as strength, flexibility, and heat resistance. SLA technology primarily uses liquid photopolymer resins that can produce parts with different characteristics such as rigidity, transparency, and durability.

Printing Speed

FFF typically has faster print speeds compared to SLA because the extrusion process is relatively quick. However, SLA prints can be more time-consuming due to the need for precise curing and layering.


FFF printers are generally more affordable and accessible compared to SLA printers. The cost of consumables, such as SLA filament and resin, also differs between the two technologies.

Finally, understanding the differences between SLA, SLS, and FDM technologies is crucial in selecting the right 3D printing solution for your needs. SLA offers high accuracy and exceptional surface quality, while SLS excels in producing functional parts without the need for support structures. FDM, on the other hand, provides affordability, accessibility, and versatility in material options.  By comparison of 3D printing technologies, you can make an informed decision and choose the best 3D printing technology for your projects.


Share the Post:

Related Posts