Selective Saser Sintering (SLS)
SLS technology uses a laser to harden and bond small grains of plastic, ceramic, glass, metal (we talk in a different article about direct metal sintering), or other materials into layers in a 3D dimensional structure. The laser traces the pattern of each cross section of the 3D design onto a bed of powder. After one layer is built, the bed lowers and another layer is built on top of the existing layers. The bed then continues to lower until every layer is built and the part is complete.
SLS really shines when you need plastic parts that will last. SLS is capable of producing highly durable parts for real-world testing and mold making, while other additive manufacturing methods may become brittle over time. Because SLS parts are so robust, they rival those produced in traditional manufacturing methods like injection molding and are already used in a variety of end-use applications, like automotive and aerospace.
One way we can think about the uses for SLS parts is in terms of the materials it uses. Styrene-based materials are great for making castings—in plaster, titanium, aluminum and more—and are compatible with most standard foundry processes. SLS also can create impact-resistant engineering plastic that’s great for low- to mid-volume end-use parts, like enclosures, snap-fit parts, automotive moldings and thin-walled ducting. Engineering plastic can also be made with flame retardant material, to fit aircraft and consumer product requirements, or gas-filled material for greater stiffness and heat resistance. There’s even fiber reinforced plastic for ultimate stiffness, and, on the other end of the spectrum, rubber-like material for flexible parts, like hoses, gaskets, grip padding and more.