In the medical industry, choosing the right manufacturing process is critical for ensuring high quality, functionality, and regulatory compliance.

This article explores when to use various additive manufacturing processes—such as HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)—alongside traditional methods like CNC machining, injection molding, tooling, and sheet metal fabrication.

We will discuss the benefits and considerations of each process and highlight suitable materials.

Additive Manufacturing Processes

1. HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)


  • High precision and fine detail: MJF is ideal for creating complex geometries with intricate details.
  • Speed: Faster than many traditional methods, making it suitable for rapid prototyping and small-batch production.
  • Material flexibility: Compatible with a variety of polymers, including nylon and TPU.


  • Surface finish: Parts may require post-processing to achieve a smoother finish.
  • Size limitations: Typically suited for smaller parts.

Best Materials: Nylon 12, TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane).

Applications in Medical Industry: Custom prosthetics, surgical guides, and orthotic devices.

HP MJF printed brace
HP MJF printed brace

2. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)


  • Cost-effective: One of the more affordable 3D printing methods, suitable for prototyping and low-volume production.
  • Material variety: Uses a wide range of thermoplastics, including ABS, PLA, and medical-grade materials like PEI.


  • Surface quality: Parts often have visible layer lines and may require additional finishing.
  • Mechanical properties: Less strong compared to other additive manufacturing methods.

Best Materials: ABS, PLA, PEI (Ultem).

Applications in Medical Industry: Anatomical models for surgical planning, low-cost prosthetics, and custom medical devices.

3. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)


  • Durability: Produces strong, durable parts suitable for functional testing and end-use applications.
  • No support structures needed: Allows for more complex designs without the need for support structures.


  • Surface roughness: Parts typically have a rough surface finish and may require post-processing.
  • Material choice: Mostly limited to nylon and other polyamide-based materials.

Best Materials: Nylon 11, Nylon 12, PA 11.

Applications in Medical Industry: Custom orthotics, prosthetic sockets, and functional medical device components.

4. Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) 3D printed knee replacement part
Direct metal laser sintering DMLS 3D printed knee replacement part


  • High precision and strength: Suitable for producing intricate metal parts with high mechanical properties.
  • Material options: Compatible with a wide range of metals, including titanium and stainless steel, which are biocompatible.


  • Cost: Generally more expensive than polymer-based additive manufacturing processes.
  • Post-processing: Requires significant post-processing, including stress relief and surface finishing.

Best Materials: Titanium, Stainless Steel, Cobalt-Chrome.

Applications in Medical Industry: Implants, surgical instruments, and dental prosthetics.

Traditional Manufacturing Processes

1. CNC Machining


  • Precision and accuracy: Capable of producing parts with tight tolerances and excellent surface finishes.
  • Material versatility: Can machine a wide range of materials, including metals, plastics, and composites.


  • Setup time and cost: Higher initial setup costs and longer lead times compared to additive manufacturing.
  • Waste: Generates more material waste, which can be a consideration for expensive materials.

Best Materials: Titanium, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, PEEK.

Applications in Medical Industry: Surgical instruments, implants, and custom medical device components.

2. Injection Molding

Plastic injection molded medical part
Plastic injection molded medical part


  • High production volume: Economical for large-scale production of plastic parts.
  • Consistency: Provides consistent quality and repeatability.


  • High initial costs: Tooling and mold creation can be expensive and time-consuming.
  • Design limitations: Complex designs may require expensive and intricate molds.

Best Materials: Polypropylene, ABS, Polycarbonate, Medical-grade silicones.

Applications in Medical Industry: Disposable medical devices, casings for medical equipment, and components for diagnostic devices.

3. Injection Tooling


  • Durability: Tools and dies are durable and can produce thousands of parts before needing replacement.
  • Precision: Ensures high precision in the production of parts.


  • Cost and time: High initial investment in tool and die creation.
  • Flexibility: Less flexible than additive methods for design changes.

Best Materials: Hardened Steel, Carbide, Aluminum (for lighter-duty tooling).

Applications in Medical Industry: Manufacture of high-volume medical components, such as syringes, and housings for electronic medical devices.

4. Sheet Metal Fabrication


  • Versatility: Can create a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Strength: Produces strong, durable parts suitable for structural applications.


  • Complexity: Complex geometries can be challenging and may require multiple processes.
  • Material limitations: Best suited for metal parts, limiting the range of possible applications.

Best Materials: Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Titanium.

Applications in Medical Industry: Hospital equipment, medical device enclosures, and structural components.


Selecting the appropriate manufacturing process in the medical industry involves balancing factors such as production volume, material properties, cost, and the complexity of the design.

Additive manufacturing methods like HP MJF, FDM, SLS, and DMLS offer flexibility and are well-suited for custom, low-volume, and complex parts.

In contrast, traditional processes like CNC machining, injection molding, tooling, and sheet metal fabrication are ideal for high-precision, high-volume production.

By understanding the benefits and limitations of each process, manufacturers can make informed decisions to meet the stringent requirements of medical applications, ensuring both functionality and compliance with industry standards.