How it works

SLS relies on the principle of “sintering” a material to form a solid mass. Sintering refers to the process of compacting a loose material, such as a plastic powder, by the application of heat or pressure. Sintering does not melt the material, but rather provides just enough energy for the atoms of separate objects to diffuse across the material boundaries.

The process

Pre-processing: Production Post-processing:
The 3D CAD model of a part or component is oriented, sliced and posited using special control software. This software translates the 3D data into two dimensional layers corresponding to the part geometry while also adding any support structures needed to successfully print the model The SLS process works by firing a laser into a bed of nylon powder, fusing (sintering) a parts shape layer by layer. Then, the machine sweeps another layer of powder over the top and shoots the laser again. This process is repeated thousands of times until the build is completed. The unsintered material around a part acts as a bed of powder and supports the part during sintering. Once the build has completed the build chamber containing all the parts is removed from the machine and left to cool down for up to several days before parts are removed. Then the powder is cleaned off from the part and the printed part can be used right away. Most 3D Printing technologies require a support material, to support the part whilst it’s being printed. This support material either needs to be broken off or chemically removed. Both take time to post-process. SLS’s powder support eliminates this support material and will leave a flawless finish to the printed parts. SLS produces nylon parts that are both strong and flexible and allows for designs to be highly complex. Printed structures can still be extremely light, yet stable and durable, giving you unparalleled results.

Advantages

    • The main advantage is that the fabricated prototypes are porous (typically 60% of the density of molded parts), thus impairing their strength and surface finish
    • Surface finish
    • Fast build times
    • No post curing required
    • No use of support structures
    • Mechanical properties of Nylon parts

Limitations

    • Rough surface finish
    • Material changeover difficult compared to FDM & SLA
    • Some post-processing / finishing required

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