Guide to Designing Parts for SLS 3D Printing Process
SLS 3D printing is a suitable solution for the production of any functional product with characteristics of intricate geometrics. The use of this technology has some advantages in its design constrains if compared to other forms of 3D printing technologies. One notable benefit is its suitability in batch product manufacturing. Below, the article will highlight the advantages of opting for SLS to 3D print your parts, SLS printing process, mention the most common SLS material we use, and determine a clear guideline of design rules, which our designer team at Creatingway follow when printing with SLS.
How To Make SLS 3D Printing Process?
Commonly known as Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), it is a powder-based fusion technology that uses the heat of a laser beam to sinter polymer, i.e., in powder form, locally to building layers. We place the powder in a bin then heated to an elevated temperature. We then deposit a thin layer of the powdered material (usually 0.1 mm) onto a build platform using a recoating blade. After depositing this thin coat, a laser beam begins scanning the surface on the build platform. The powder is selectively sintered by the laser beam, thus solidifying a cross-section of the part made. When scanning of the entire cross-section is complete, the building platform changes to about one layer of thickness in height ready for the next powder coat to be applied.
Below are three processes for the printing process.
- The unsintered powder has a role in supporting subsequent layers, thus eradicating the need for support structures; it, therefore, remains in place. The recoating blade deposits a new coat of powder on top of the already scanned layer, and the laser beam begins to sinter the sequential cross-section of the part onto the previously solidified cross-sections. The entire process highlighted above repeats until all parts are fully manufactured through this process.
- The result is a container filled with both powder and the consolidated end product. For an added advantage of batch manufacturing due to its ability in multiple products produced simultaneously. We’ve also managed to determine the best placement and orientation of different parts to maximize part occupancy in the placement box through each print.
- After the printing process is complete, we cool down the container containing the powder and the ready-made product, followed by unpacking of the powder container. Separation of the solid products from the unsintered powder follows. Cleaning of the solid product using compressed air and a blasting medium follows to remove any remaining sintering powder. We later then collect the unsintered powder for future reuse. The parts made are either generally ready for use or are post-processed to improve on its overall appearance and mechanical properties.
What’s The General Guidelines for Designing SLS Printing?
These are our basic design recommendations if you are to request a quote from us. They exist to improve on the overall quality, surface finish, and functionality of your SLS parts.
- Wall thickness minimum of 0.7 mm – 2.0 mm
- Hole size larger than 1.5 mm in diameter
- Feature size (pins, protruding features, etc.) minimum size of 0.8 mm
- Engraving minimum depth 1 mm
- Embossing minimum depth 1 mm
- Text minimum font height 2 mm (font size 14)
- Tolerances ± 0.1-0.15 mm
What’re the Materials of SLS 3D Printing?
SLS offers a wide range in a selection of materials to use. The majority are polyamide based (nylons). Hence, below is a summary of materials with their basic properties.
- Carbon filled polyamide – high strength and stiffness
- Glass-filled polyamide – high wear resistance and stiffness
- Alumide – good post-processing abilities high stiffness
- PEBA – rubber-like, durable and flexible
- PA11 – high impact resistance, environmentally friendly
- PA12 – good mechanical properties, good dimensional stability, good wear resistance, high chemical resistance
- PEEK – high-temperature resistance, excellent mechanical properties
- Nickel plating
- Standard finish
- Media tumbled
Advantages of SLS 3D Printing
- No need for support structures
- Fast since the nylon powder only needs a brief exposure to the laser to be sintered
- Ideal for dyeing
- Excellent layer adhesion
Limitations of SLS 3D Printing
- Product Size
The size of the nylon container limits the size the SLS machine can print a part. The average build volume is about 300 mm × 300 mm × 300 mm, with larger machines offering an even bigger build volume of 700 mm × 380 mm × 580 mm.
Small variations occur in dimensions and surface quality because every SLS printed part comprises of hundreds of layers.
- Surface Finish
Though the SLS process produces a consistent surface finish, it is slightly grainy to touch and may require additional post-processing to smoothen it out if you desire a smoother surface.
What’re the Applications?
In the making of industrial hardware such as machine parts, jigs, and tooling. Parts of medical devices, anatomical models, packaging. At Creatingway, we are more than capable of delivering quality SLS made parts with our team of experts. Contacts us now for any inquiries for our services.
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