I decided to look into SLS Printing next since after FDM this is the second most widely known and used technology it is a very versatile technology since it allows for a very wide range of materials to be used, there are very few things in common with FDM other than the fact that it is still an AM process whereby the parts are built in layers.
Selective Laser Sintering is more commonly known as SLS Printing is a techniques that makes use of a powerful laser to form 3D objects from a powder raw material.
Here is a video I found that visually explains the process :
In the 1980s this techniques was developed by Joe Beaman and one of his students Carl Deckard from the University of Texas.
What lets SLS stand out from some of the other 3D printing techniques like Stereolithography and FDM is the fact that with SLS there is no need to use Support structures on overhangs since with SLS the “Un-sintered” material serves as its support.
In same way as all other Printing methods the process starts with the 3D CAD Model that needs to be designed on a computer CAD Program and then converted to a .stl format for printing.
Some of the materials that one could print with using this technology include the following, Nylon (the most common), some ceramics and even steels and Aluminium’s.
The drawback of this technology is the fact that it is considerably more expensive than FDM and as a result of this it is more often found in larger companies and not so much amongst Enthusiasts and Hobbyists, It is however starting to become more and more accessible as more and more 3D Printing bureaus start coming into the marketplace.
It is very often used for Prototyping and Product development, and I have even seen a strong growth in low volume production runs where the quantities are too low for other methods but to high to justify the costs of an Injection moulding tool.
Next time we will have a closer look at SLA and DPL together since these two are so different but are so closely used.