Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

What is SLS?

Rapid Prototyping refers to the creation of quick representations of final products from an initial idea and taking it through successive iterations until the final form is developed without tooling or molds. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is one of the most popular Rapid Prototyping mechanisms in which a laser beam selectively fuses or sinters powder materials, nylon, elastomer etc. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) can provide your manufacturing business with a leading edge by producing rapid plastic or metal prototypes that closely match their molded counterparts.


The primary advantage of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) over Stereolithography is that it builds prototypes in nylon material. It is possible to make structurally functional parts such as living hinges, functioning springs, snap fit components with nylon material using Selective Laser Sintering. The process in itself is very simple and there is no molds or tooling involved. The nylon material used in SLS can be easily machined, drilled and tapped unlike those used in SLA, which are brittle as they are built with liquid photopolymers and cured with UV light. They continue to cure once complete and as a result become more brittle as time goes on.

Since being patented by Dr. Carl Deckard in 1989, the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology has become one of the most popularly utilized processes for rapid prototyping and product development in manufacturing industries. Selective Laser Sintering has become a very reliable and trusted form of rapid prototyping due to its structural properties. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is particularly useful when the design is complex, customized, needs to be functional or requires short run production.


In the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) process, 3D parts are created when an infrared laser beam sinters and fuses powdered materials. The final object is created by repeatedly fusing thin layers using the laser beam. This process also known as additive manufacturing producing parts that gradually increase in size until they reach the prescribed size. These prototypes are created directly from the STL file obtained from 3D CAD models.

The most beneficial characteristic of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is how durable and functional the materials are. These materials include versions of the original DuraForm and DuraForm glass-filled (GF), which are nylon-based materials that create highly durable and functional plastic prototypes. Other Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) materials available are Flex Plastic for elastomeric, rubber-like parts, and LaserForm, which makes metal prototypes.


Research and development has been progressing to bring newer selective laser sintering (SLS) materials to the market. These materials are such that they require no post processing steps whatsoever after building and this offers a distinct advantage over stereolithography (SLA). This however does not mean that these materials cannot be processed. All of the selective laser sintering (SLS) materials can be finished in multiple ways. They can be painted, plated, drilled, tapped, or even machined. This allows for a higher grade of appearance to these parts thus giving users an unlimited potential to use them.