Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology is at the heart of a growing trend in mass custom manufacturing as well as functional prototyping. The right additive technologies, materials and finishes are transforming manufacturing.
What is SLS?
SLS is a technology used to produce tough parts using high temperature resistance that remain stable over time. It is often the technology that is used for producing end-use parts. To ensure parts are air and water tight or chemical resistant there is also a sealing technique that can be used.
Graphite Additive Manufacturing use two different materials for their SLS printing – Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic and Graphite Reinforced Plastic.
Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic is a specialised Carbon fibre filled plastic ideal for components that need to be light but strong. This material is unique to Graphite Additive Manufacturing and not used by any other 3D printer in the UK.
Graphite Reinforced Plastic is a cost effective all round material with an excellent black surface finish. This material was developed in-house and is exclusive to Graphite Additive Manufacturing.
How it works
The SLS process uses a bed of powdered material, which is fused a layer at a time by a high power, CO2 laser. The laser ‘draws’ a single layer cross-section of the required part on the surface of the powder bed, accurately creating the part layer and joining it to the layer below.
When each layer has been completed the powder bed lowers and the process is repeated, one layer at a time until the required object is complete. During construction, an object being built using SLS is supported by the surrounding powder – it is possible therefore to build very complex geometries without any need for interfering support structures. In this way the SLS process allows previously impossible shapes to be built.
What are the benefits of SLS?
- No support structures are needed for the design
- Allows for complex geometries
- It allows for strong, light parts to be produced
- Good surface finish
- A conductive and non-conductive materials
- Repeatable technology ideal for prototype and low volume production runs
What can SLS be used for?
Below are some examples of the objects that could be produced using SLS.
- Covers and cases
- Oil and water couplings
- Lighting pods
- Radio controlled cars
- Cycling accessories
- Sports equipment (removed spectacles)
Example of where SLS has been used
3D Printed Radio Controlled Car
Graphite Additive Manufacturing worked in association with Schumacher Racing Cars, a leading manufacturer of remote control cars & accessories, on a project to build a radio-controlled car created almost entirely by 3D printing. Schumacher are a British manufacturer renowned worldwide for their original and innovative radio control model car designs.
Using the manufacturer’s original design drawings, Graphite re-created replacement parts with their specialist Selective Laser Sintering (SLS*) process. Metal components such as shock absorbers, floor pan and nuts & bolts, along with the rubber tyres, were carried over from the standard car. But 90% of the originally injection-moulded plastic parts were replaced by Graphite’s Carbon-SLS material, a carbon fibre reinforced plastic.
Once built, the replacement parts, including bodywork, gearbox casing, suspension & steering components, aerodynamic aids and wheels, are assembled straight on to the RC car in their appropriate positions, with no additional work required other than the tapping of threads in certain parts. The carbon fibre reinforced material that Graphite utilises has the highest stiffness-to-weight and strength-to-weight ratios of any 3D printed material, and its use on this project gave a weight saving on the finished ‘carbon’ car of 10% when compared to the car in standard trim.
*SLS is a registered trademark of 3D Systems, Inc.
To ensure your components have the mechanical properties you have specified, we build and test mechanical test bars on every SLS build. The mechanical data we publish is always from actual results, as opposed to taken from the manufacturers’ data sheets.
To find out more, or speak, to one of our experts call 01296 482673.