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How does SLS 3D Printer work?

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a 3D printing technology that uses a high-powered laser to selectively fuse powdered material layer by layer, creating a three-dimensional object. Here's an overview of how SLS 3D printers work:

SLS 3d printed part


How SLS 3D Printers Work:

Powder Bed:

SLS 3D printers start with a bed of powdered material. This material is typically a thermoplastic, such as nylon or polyamide, in a fine powder form.


Layer-by-Layer Building:

The SLS process works by selectively sintering (fusing) the powdered material layer by layer. A thin layer of powder is spread evenly across the build platform.


Laser Sintering:

A high-powered laser then traces the cross-section of the object onto the powdered layer, sintering or melting the powder in the areas where the laser contacts it. This fuses the powder particles, creating a solid layer.


Lowering the Build Platform:

After each layer is sintered, the build platform is lowered by a distance equal to the thickness of the sintered layer. This process is repeated, with new powder added for each layer, until the entire 3D object is built.


Unsintered Powder Support:

Surrounding the printed object in the powder bed is unsintered powder, which acts as a natural support structure during the printing process. This eliminates the need for additional support structures that would need to be removed post-printing.


Cooling and Consolidation:

After the printing is complete, the entire build chamber is allowed to cool. The printed object, still surrounded by unsintered powder, is then extracted from the build chamber.


Post-Processing:

Once removed, the excess powder is typically brushed off, and the object may undergo additional post-processing steps, such as bead blasting or heat treatment, to improve surface finish and mechanical properties.


Advantages of SLS 3D Printing:

No Support Structures:

SLS does not require support structures because the unsintered powder acts as a natural support during printing.


Material Versatility:

SLS can work with a variety of materials beyond plastics, including metals, ceramics, and even certain types of food-grade materials.


Complex Geometries:

SLS is capable of producing complex and intricate geometries, making it suitable for producing functional prototypes and end-use parts.


High Strength and Durability:

SLS-printed parts can exhibit high strength and durability due to the solidification of the entire layer during the sintering process.


Considerations:

Powder Handling:

Working with powdered materials requires careful handling and safety precautions to avoid inhalation and ensure a clean printing environment.


Post-Processing:

Some post-processing steps may be necessary, depending on the specific material and desired properties of the final print.


Popular manufacturers of SLS 3D printers include EOS, Formlabs, and Sintratec. The technology is widely used in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and healthcare for its ability to produce high-quality, functional parts.

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