3D Printer SLS vs SLA

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Updated January 16, 2023

Of all the modern inventions, there’s hardly any more exciting than the 3D printer. And, where once the best 3D printers were enormously expensive, now they are available for consumers to use right in their homes. However, choosing the best model, whether an office printer or a 3D printer, is no small task. But have no fear because we’re here to break it down for you. Below, we’ll compare two 3D printers: SLA vs SLA, and explain what they are, how they’re used, and any specific strengths/weaknesses.


  • SLS printers use a laser to melt powdered material (glass, metal, ceramic, or thermoplastics) and form an object.
  • SLA printers are small, using a UV laser to melt a resin and layering it on to create an object.
  • SLS printers make more durable, high-quality objects, while SLA printers are less expensive but are limited in quality.

If you want to learn more, check out some of our additional resources, like our buying guide on the best industrial 3D printers. And for a specific comparison, we have a great article on Sinterit Lisa Pro vs Fuse 1 3D printers.

Insider Tip

When using an SLA printer, always limit the amount of ambient light in the room you’re printing

Differences Between an SLS vs SLA 3D Printer

Although textually, the difference between these two systems is only one letter, the functional contrast is significant.

SLS stands for “Selective Laser Sintering.” And what it means is that the printer uses a laser to bind small particles together to make an object. These particles (powder-like substances) can be made of anything from plastic to metal to glass.

On the other hand, SLA stands for “Stereolithography.” Here, an ultraviolet laser binds a liquid resin together into an object.

So, yes, they both use lasers, but there many differences between them that we’ll explain below.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in any other content, we have a fascinating read on the difference between 3D printers with a raft vs brim.


SLS printers are used more for industrial-grade projects, while SLAs are more geared toward hobbyists and casual users. Therefore, SLS printers produce a higher quality, more durable product, while SLAs are used to make products that won’t undergo extreme stress or temperature changes.

However, SLA printers are still precise and can make intricate objects, even though the durability is nowhere near that of SLS printers. For more on industrial-grade machinery options, we have an additional article comparing 3D printers vs laser cutters.


Always have proper ventilation when using an SLA printer. The vapors from SLA resin are toxic if inhaled.


SLS printers are large, highly powerful, and require no supporting structures due to the nature of the material. Because of this, they are great for producing objects at a mass scale. In contrast, the resin-based SLA machine requires more time because the laser is less powerful and requires a supporting structure during the printing process.


Regarding cost, SLS printers are much more expensive, costing anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000. On the other hand, affordable SLA printers start at around $500.

STAT: SLS printing technology was developed in the 1980s. (source)

3D Printer SLS vs SLA FAQs

How do I determine which 3D printing technology is right for me?

First, understand the object you wish to create and the material needed to meet the quality, durability, and overall price of the object in question.

Is there an alternative 3D printing method to SLS and SLA?

Multi-jet fusion printers are a frequently cited alternative to either of the print mentioned above types.

What is the most durable printing material?

There are many, but ABS is a great 3D print material that is durable and inexpensive.
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