Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is one of the most versatile rapid prototyping processes available today. SLS uses a laser sintering system that fuses layers of the selected powder material together to create a solid part.
Materials: polymers such as nylon, (neat, glass-filled or with other fillers) or polystyrene, polycarbonate, metals including aluminum, steel, titanium, and alloy mixtures can all be used to create a prototype using the SLS Process.
Process: The prototyping technology is very similar for all of the aforementioned materials.
The prototypes are created layer by layer within the general working area of the machine. There are two powder material supply areas situated on either side of the working surface. These powder supplies contain the prototyping material in powdered form. When the SLS process begins a leveling bar spreads a layer of powder evenly across the working surface before and after each layer is created. The laser then activates the powder by fusing it to the previously created layer of the prototype. After a single layer is created the working area is consequently lowered according to the specific thickness requirements. This process is then repeated for the duration of the SLS rapid prototyping process until the prototype is finished.
SLS prototyping process is considerably stronger than other rapid prototyping processes such as SLA or FDM, and as a result, can be modified and machined with relative ease. In order to strengthen and seal the prototype an additional resin can be applied to the surface of the prototype.
Applications: Commonly the SLS process is used to create product prototypes early in the design process in order to explore the functionality and the potential aesthetic of the final product. Also, because of the variety of materials that can be used in the SLS process and its capability to create complex geometric shapes, companies are commonly turning to SLS to create limited-run manufactured parts for their products. Industries such as Medical, Automotive, Military, Aerospace, Electronics etc. all use the SLS process for tooling, rapid manufacturing and prototyping.
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