July 22, 2024
Rapid Manufacturing With Selective Laser Sintering

Rapid Prototyping has long been used as a tool to produce early concept models. Used as visual design aides and early marketing tools, prototype models were originally confined to the early stages of the design process due to the fragile nature of materials available. Ongoing research and development within the field of Rapid Prototyping has led to significant developments in the range of materials available with prototype models now suitable for fit, form and function testing. Taking functionality even further, the Selective Laser Sintering process has proven popular as a tool for Rapid Manufacture of production components.

The Process

Selective Laser Sintering is the Additive Manufacturing process by which 3 dimensional objects are “grown” layer by layer from fused particles of glass, ceramic, plastic or metal. Using a STL file of the required part a high power laser selectively draws a cross section of the object onto a thin layer of the SLS material. As the laser hits the powder it fuses to create a solid mass representing one cross section of the part. Once this cross section is completed the build platform lowers by 0.1mm and a new layer of powder is spread across the build platform. The process repeats until the final object is “grown” layer by layer. Minimal clean-up is required as loose or un-sintered material can simply be brushed away to leave the final model.

With minimal clean up and turnover times of less than 24 hours offered on the SLS Formiga P100 machine Selective Laser Sintering integrates perfectly into the production environment.

Materials

The range of materials available through Selective Laser Sintering continues to rise as research and development into Rapid Prototyping technologies continues, however some of the most popular SLS materials include.

PA 2200 – a nylon based material offering high temperature resistance and exceptional durability, PA 2200 is suitable for creating living hinges and snap fits.

PA 3200 GF – the combination of Nylon and Glass in PA3200 GF produces extremely high temperature resistant components with high stiffness and mechanical wear resistance.

Alumide – characterised by its high stiffness, metallic appearance and good post processing properties, alumide is an aluminium filled material.

PrimePart FR – a fire retardant material offering good dimensional stability.

PEEK – the worlds first high performance polymer with high temperatures, wear and chemical resistance.

PrimeCast – polystyrene based PrimeCast offers excellent surface finish and low ash residue, offering an ideal solution for the creation of lost patterns for investment castings.

The short production lead times along with the range of tough functional SLS materials available help to explain the growing popularity of Selective Laser Sintering for the production of one off or low volume components.