Selective laser sintering (SLS) prototyping creates a prototype by using a three-dimensional design to construct a physical model, layer by layer. Each layer is formed using a powdered substance, such as metal or plastic, in a controlled environment. After each layer is formed, a laser melts or "sinters" the powdered substances together to provide form and durability.
Using selective laser sintering prototyping, models with levels of detail similar to SLA prototype manufacturing can be created. Powder in the controlled environment requires little or no support during the construction process and will keep its shape after post-curing or finishing. If you're considering using the SLS prototype manufacturing process, know this:
1. SLS prototyping produces stronger prototypes than most model manufacturing processes. If you need a prototype able to withstand large amounts of stress, an SLS prototype works well.
2. Unlike most other prototype manufacturing processes, SLS rapid prototyping models don't become brittle over time. Prototypes made with SLS have longterm stability.
3. SLS prototypes require very little clean-up and finishing. Most SLS prototypes don't need post-curing, saving valuable manufacturing time.
Decide which material you'd like your SLS prototypes built withSLS can be made with powdered ceramic materials, nylon-based materials, plastic, and a rubber-like substance. Choose your source material depending on the prototype's intended uses. Objects that need to be tested in high temperature environments, such as gaskets, may need to be made of metal, while others can be manufactured more cheaply from thermal plastics or ceramic materials.
Construct your own SLS prototypesTo make your own SLS prototypes, you'll need selective laser sintering prototyping machines and a controlled thermal environment. It's important to remember that large prototypes require a machine big enough to construct them. The design must be fully contained in the thermal control chamber during manufacturing.
Find a company that offers selective laser sintering prototyping servicesMany companies will work with you to design a prototype, select the right materials and construct the prototype, without requiring you to purchase or rent selective laser sintering machines. Always make sure, however, that the company you select can handle the size and accuracy requirements you prefer, and work in the materials you select.
- Although SLS prototyping services are most often used to create functional models and prototypes, the process is also increasingly used for the limited run manufacturing of end-use parts. The relative ease and low cost with which SLS prototypes can be produced makes it useful for manufacturing specialized parts and even sculpture.