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Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D Printing

Ultimate SLS 3D Printing Guide For Beginners

3d printing technology is booming across all industries, and companies are upgrading their manufacturing process. As Industry 4.0 is on the verge of transformation, more small and mid-sized companies integrate high-performance additive manufacturing services.

There are multiple 3d printing technologies available to accomplish different manufacturing needs, and SLS 3d printing is among them. SLS has been a preferred choice among engineers as it offers low-cost prototyping and manufacturing. It's an ideal choice for quick small-batch production.

In this SLS 3d printing guide, we will have an overview of its working, workflow, variety of materials, and SLS 3d printing applications.

What is Selective Laser Sintering?

SLS 3d printing is a laser sintering additive manufacturing technology that leverages a solid laser to sinter polymer particles at melting temperatures to form a solid 3d structure. The laser used in SLS printing technology lets engineers produce high-quality products with intricate geometries.

The laser used in SLS technology can solidify the power of plastics, ceramics, glass, or metals. Like other methods, SLS builds an object in a layered fashion until the design is completed.

The laser traces the design pattern of each layer in the powder bed, and then the bed is lowered to trace the next layer.

SLS 3D Printing
SLS 3D Printing

How Does SLS 3D Printing Work?

The working of SLS technology in 3d printing is simple and lets engineers quickly 3d print using CAD files. In the printing process, SLS printers disperse the material powder in a thin layer over the platform's top inside the build chamber. Then, the printer preheats the powder near its melting temperature.

This makes it possible for the laser to increase the temperature of specific powder regions and follow the design traces to solidify that area. This process fuses the material particles to form a solid base. The platform gets lower in a layered fashion in the built chamber to repeat the printing process.

In SLS, the unfused powder acts as a support for the primary part, excluding the need for support structures.

Once the process is over, the build chamber must cool down from inside the print chamber and outside. It's essential to follow this pattern to achieve the required mechanical properties and avoid warping in SLS materials.

In the post-processing process, engineers remove the part from the build chamber and remove the excess powder. The excessive powder left during the SLS manufacturing is easier to recycle using media blasting or tumbling methods.

Workflow of SLS process

The SLS 3d printing process workflow can be divided into four simple steps that cover designing to post-processing activities. Check out the SLS workflow details below:

Designing & preparing CAD file

Whether you use SLS for rapid prototyping or small-batch production, the process begins with creating a product design. Once the design is ready, it's exported into a 3d CAD file that needs to be in a printer-supported format (STL or OBJ). Once the geometry is prepared, the file goes through slicing software to slice the design and make it compatible with the 3d printer.

Preparing the 3d printer

Once the digital file is ready, you need to set the printer up with the required settings like orientation and slicing timing. The workflow for preparing the machine varies by the system used for printing. Many modern printers come with default settings, so you have to modify them.

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Printing process

As discussed in the above section, the SLS printing process takes anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days to complete the design. The time varies on the object's size and complexity. Once the object is ready, the build chamber is left to cool down, and the thing is removed.

Post-processing

Post-processing of SLS parts is easy and can be done quickly compared to other additive manufacturing processes. Furthermore, as this process doesn't require additional structural support, the post-processing becomes quick, and the SLS 3d printing materials can also be reused to a certain extent.

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SLS Technology
SLS 3D Printing Service

SLS 3d Printing Materials

Nylon is the most common SLS additive manufacturing material as it offers excellent flexibility for functional prototyping. This material is ideal for preparing objects with intricate geometries with superior real-world stability. Parts made using nylon are stiff, durable and offer higher impact resistance. Nylon 3d printed components can also be biodegradable; they are safe to wear in many scenarios.

Other plastic-based widely-used materials with this technology are PA12, TPU, PA 11, and PA6. Along with these materials, SLS can also print with glass, ceramics, and composite material powders.

Industries using SLS 3d printing

Types of SLS 3d Printers

SLS 3d printers are available in different sizes with varied specifications to handle printing jobs based on design complexity. In addition, different SLS 3d printers use distinctive methods for powder dispensing, temperature management, and layer deposition.

Traditional SLS 3d printers

The traditional SLS 3d printers utilize single or multiple powerful lasers to sinter the material powder. The process needs an inert gas environment to prevent power from oxidizing, and it's done using nitrogen gas.

The traditional printers also need an HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system to execute printing operations. The conventional printing machine can occupy around 10 m² area.

Benchtop industrial SLS printers

Industrial printers are difficult to operate and to overcome this challenge, several businesses now use benchtop printers that are fast and take less space.

These are compact-size 3d printers that offer less power than industrial machines. These printers support less complex designs than full-fledged industrial printers.

Selective Laser Sintering

Why Choose SLS 3D Printing

There are several industry-leading benefits of opting for SLS 3d printing, and below are some cutting-edge advantages to consider:

  • Prints high-quality complex geometries
  • Excellent mechanical properties
  • Higher-strength and durability
  • Supports a wide range of materials
  • Faster turnaround time

We hope this SLS free eBook will come in handy, to begin with, SLS printing. 3d printing is the future of manufacturing; gain an edge in your business with this free guide and get started.

Industries and Applications

The following industries are the most ardent users of AM technologies in their businesses.

3D-Printing-Automotive-Industry

Automotive

Lightweight aerodynamics parts are desirable in the automobile industry. This contributes to making cars more energy efficient. 3D printing in the automotive industry is used both for rapid prototyping services as well as for some end parts creation.

Manufacturing

The precision and accuracy of 3D print processes are helping the manufacturing industry reduce material wastage, save time, money, and efforts.

R&D

Rapid prototyping has become a crucial component used in R&D departments of leading businesses. It helps save time and money for the manufacturers.

Medical and Healthcare

This is one of the most promising sectors for applications of 3D printing. Some of the applications include prototyping for product development to creating actual patient solutions, such as dental crowns, prosthetics, implants, human tissues, and organs, as well as 3D printed surgical instruments.

Architecture

3D architectural models enable businesses to showcase accurate details of projects. Architects also have greater design flexibility when they use 3D CAD models.

Jewellery

Lightweight aerodynamics parts are desirable in the automobile industry. This contributes to making cars more energy efficient. 3D printing in the automotive industry is used both for rapid prototyping services as well as for some end parts creation.

Aerospace/Defence/Navy

This industry was one of the earliest adopters of additive manufacturing. Rapid prototyping has become a critical component in the development of replacement and end parts in this industry.

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