Selective Laser Sintering is similar to the other rapid prototyping techniques as it quickly turns 3D CAD data into physical model. Usually SLS parts are not made with regular prototyping plastic, but light-weight, highly durable are used, which makes this technology great for end user and functional parts for the automotive industry, architectural models, air vent and cooling designs.
Similar to the other rapid prototyping techniques, the process starts with first processing the 3D CAD data with a special software to create thin layers, which will guide the machine later. Usually this kind of machines have a vat full of powder and a device which spreads a thin layer of across the powder bed. A special laser then tracks the cross-sections of the designed 3D CAD data and as it goes over the powder the material is sintered together. Once the layer is fused, the building platform lowers enough for another layer of thin powder to be deposited by the machine (from a canister holding fresh material) and the process is then repeated until the part is ready. Often, depending on the machine, the parts need to be treated chemically to make them more rigid and to highlight printed colors. Here is the usual surface finish you can expect from this technology:
As SLS part is build, the unsintered powder, which is surrounding the part is not removed from the building platform and it holds the part in one place. No additional support structures are needed, because the part is surrounded by material, which holds overhangs and pieces otherwise impossible to print. This allows very complicated, thin and long structures to be printed, which are not so suitable for the other technologies. Layer thickness is low – from 0.08mm giving very good surface quality and build size is usually larger than FDM and SLA machines.
Since this technology allows full color 3D printing it is very suitable for architecture models and art, which is rapidly growing application. SLS parts have very good surface finish and are accurate enough for prototypes in high demand industries, like automotive and aerospace. Additional finishing like sanding is also possible, please see our Finishing section for more information of the process and the service we provide.
SLS is suitable for the following applications:
- Concept modeling – very fine detail, accuracy and surface finish great proof of concept and design
- Functional prototypes – models are tough enough for functional tests and variety of materials are available
- Marketing – perfect for design verification and great for marketing materials
- End-user parts – fast low volume production of customized parts, without tooling expense and lead time
SLS is used in the following industries:
- Architecture modeling
SLS parts are good for the following post processing: