A Beginner’s Guide to Laser Sintering: Everything to Know
Tesla, Boeing, and GE are just a few big companies that use laser sintering. This method of creating 3D models is reliable, quick, and resourceful.
Using 3D modeling to create prototypes has become standard across manufacturing industries. There’s no better way to show off your product than with a working model.
To set your business apart, you need to know all your options for 3D modeling. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about laser sintering.
A Brief History of Laser Sintering
Selective laser sintering was creating in the 1980s by two doctors at the University of Austin. Dr. Deckard and Dr. Beaman named their company Nova Automation.
In the ’80s laser sintering used the relatively new method of CAD to create 3D models with lasers. At the time of Nova Automation’s birth, this method was being called “revolutionary.”
Throughout the decades, there have been improvements made to the original design. New materials (like plastic and metal) are now available for laser sintering. Since the popularity of 3D printing and modeling has grown, the machines have become more affordable to small businesses and individuals.
Today, the method used for laser sintering is still the same. Designers use CAD software to create plans for the model and then input the plan into a laser machine. The method has grown in popularity so much that it is now one of the standard production methods for parts and prototypes.
What Is Laser Sintering?
This is the process of using a high-powered laser to fuse (or sinter) materials together. These materials come in the form of powders, and the laser works layer by layer through the powder to form an object.
The lasers pinpoint particles to fuse together, following the design files given. Any power that is not pinpointed by the laser beams stays in a powder form. There is no need for supports within the machine because the unused powder acts as a support.
Metal, plastic, and glass are a few of the main materials used to create a powder. The chosen material goes through a super powerful grinder until it is a powder form.
The unfused powder can is reusable, which makes the process less wasteful than other 3D printing methods.
Depending on the object you’re making, the laser could fuse hundreds, even thousands, of layers to make it. Due to the process, sintering creates more durable and complex components than any other form of 3D printing.
How Do Laser Sintering Machines Work?
Understanding the components of a laser sintering machine is the first step. That is a high-powered laser and powder material.
A machine puts all these components together for industrial use. No matter the size of the machine, they all work in the same basic way. Three main compartments contain the powder. The main, center compartment forms the actual product, and this is where the laser focuses its beams.
The two side compartments hold powder material, which is then rolled into the middle compartment to make each layer.
As the powder layers roll into the center compartment, the laser beam works to fuse the powder into the desired shape. Little by little, it forms your design.
Once the sintering machine finishes its work, you can remove the object and brush away extra powder. This step is usually hand-done with pressurized air and brushes.
Once the part is no longer covered in powder material, you can polish it off to your specifications. Due to the process and potential inconsistencies within the powder particles, objects often come out as slightly porous and with a rough texture.
To counteract these possible effects, you can use a liquid sealant or sand down any rough texture.
Benefits of Using Laser Sintering
Since the laser sintering process is fully supported by the excess powder, there is no need for external supports. This gives you even more room for creative liberties. Imagination is the only limitation of what you can make.
Also, this form of 3D modeling is the quickest way to produce prototypes and parts. Despite being the quickest method, laser sintering can still produce the most complex components used for a variety of purposes.
Due to the versatility of the materials used, laser sintering creates the most durable products, and you have several finish options for whatever material you use.
You can also use laser sintering machines to create large batches of objects. There is no reason to create one item at a time. You can make as big of a batch as the machine will allow.
How to Access Selective Laser Sintering
If you’re coming out with a prototype for your business, you probably don’t have a laser sintering machine on hand. Because of the high-powered lasers, these machines can be costly.
Depending on the size of the prototype you’re creating, you could buy a small machine for a couple of thousand dollars.
However, the most practical way to access selective laser sintering is through a 3D manufacturing service. This way, you get to use their industrial-level machines without committing to a huge machine purchase.
A 3D manufacturing service takes your design and uses their machines to make a prototype. You have complete control over the entire process, and you save money by not having to purchase an expensive laser sintering machine.
With InterPro, you can choose your material and input your designs. This is the perfect option for businesses looking to make a prototype or small-batch products.
When it comes to 3D modeling, laser sintering is the best option. It is reliable, flexible, and fast.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can bring your design to life with laser sintering, contact us to get a quote.