Sunday, 18 June 2017

Accessible SLS 3D printing // Formlabs Fuse 1

Formlabs Fuse 1
When 3D printing is mentioned, we almost always think of the standard FDM or Fused Deposit Modelling because the printers becoming cheaper and easier to function are using this technology. It works by melting thin, round plastic called filament and laying it down on a build plate to produce a single layer of a 3D object.This is process is repeated again and again until a 3D object is formed. However, this is one of many 3D printing methods with others consisting of SLA, DLP, ELM, BJ and then SLS or Selective Laser Sintering. Earlier this month, Formlabs the company behind the Form SLA 3D printer series, released a new product. The Formlabs Fuse 1 which is a a SLS 3D printer. This is a significant technological advancement because the technology has not been accessible to small businesses and manufactures for a reasonable price. 

SLS 3D printing works on the Fuse 1 like this: Tiny nylon spheres are equally laid across a bed and then the machine heats them up to just below their melting point. Next, a laser runs across the powder and fuses certain nylon beads together to produce a particular cross section of your desired 3D object. The bed with the cured nylon on then lowers by a couple of millimetres and new powder is spread over the previous layer. the process is then repeated until the print is complete! When the part is complete, you can clean off the powder that as not been cured and you are consequently left with you hard, nylon part.  The Fuse 1 has a 165 x 165 x 320mm build volume, big enough for most applications!

The three main advantages of SLS printing are the short print times, the ability to print with no supports and the strength of the prints. Strength means you have a large range of applications in manufacture and product prototyping. Printing in powder means you can print parts with severe overhangs, mechanical/moving parts at once and lots of parts at once for example 12 individual bike pedals on top of each other or moving chain mail in one print (pictured). Sound good? You can have on for £12,000 when the queue is short enough!     

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