- What desktop SLS 3D printers are available on the market?
- The 5 best professional desktop SLS 3D printers
- What is SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) technology?
- Overview of the best desktop SLS 3D printers
- Benefits and limits of SLS 3D printing
- SLS vs FDM vs SLA
- SLS 3D printing: what materials are available?
- Other notable professional SLS 3D printers
What desktop SLS 3D printers are available on the market?
SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) is a 3D printing technology that uses a laser beam to sinter powdered material. This technique enables the 3D printing of detailed, functional parts suited for professional and industrial use.
A few years ago, SLS was exclusive to large, industrial-type additive manufacturing systems. Today, a new breed of SLS 3D printers has hit the market with lower prices and smaller formats, catering to small business professionals.
Starting at around $7,000, today’s professional desktop SLS 3D printers are much more affordable than before (even if they don’t target consumers yet). They enable small businesses to access accurate and advanced in-house prototyping without implying long delays linked to external 3D printing services.
We’ve created a list of the 5 desktop SLS 3D printers available in 2018, following the selection criterion below:
- SLS 3D printing technology
- Available under $12,000
- Desktop or “bench-top” dimensions
The 5 best professional desktop SLS 3D printers
|3D printer||Price in USD (MSRP*)||Price in EUR (MSRP*)||Build volume in mm||Country|
|Sinterit Lisa||-||€5,990||150 x 200 x 150||Poland|
|Sintratec Kit||$5,350||€4,999||130 x 130 x 130||Switzerland|
|Formlabs Fuse 1||$9,999||-||165 x 165 x 320||United States|
|Natural Robotics VIT SLS||-||€11,000||250 x 250 x 300||Spain|
|RED ROCK 3D RED ROCK||-||-||180 x 180 x 180||Russia|
*MSRP: manufacturer suggested retail price. These prices are subject to change.
The Sinterit Lisa is one of the most affordable desktop SLS 3D printers on the market.
What is SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) technology?
How does Selective Laser Sintering work?
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a powder bed fusion 3D printing technique that uses a laser to sinter powdered material. In other words, a powerful laser beam selectively melts and fuses tiny powder particles together. Once a layer is finished, more powder is rolled and spread onto the print bed. The process repeats itself layer after layer. The excess powder stays in the powder bed, thus automatically providing support for the object and its intricacies.
When the 3D printing process is finished and the powder bed has cooled down, the objects can be removed. Excess powder material is then to be brushed of manually to reveal the final part. The parts require little to no post-processing.
SLS 3D printing technology.
Home SLS 3D printing: is it possible?
At the moment, desktop SLS 3D printers cannot yet be considered home SLS 3D printers. Since the machines use powder, it is better to have a specific, separate environment to use and store the SLS printer. They also use high-power laser beams that could cause physical harm to less-cautious users.
Overview of the best desktop SLS 3D printers
- Country: Poland
- Build volume: 150 x 200 x 150 mm
- Price: €5,990
- Hardware dimensions: 620 x 400 x 660 mm
- Weight: 41 kg
- Country: Switzerland
- Build volume: 130 x 130 x 130 mm
- Price: $5,350
- Hardware dimensions: 600 x 520 x 380 mm
- Weight: 28 kg
- Country: United States
- Build volume: 165 x 165 x 320 mm
- Price: $9,999
- Hardware dimensions: 677 x 668 x 1059 mm
- Weight: 88 kg
- Country: Spain
- Build volume: 250 x 250 x 300 mm
- Price: €11,000
- Hardware dimensions: 800 x 600 x 950 mm
- Weight: –
- Country: Russia
- Build volume: 180 x 180 x 180 mm
- Hardware dimensions: 800 x 430 x 770 mm
- Weight: 35 kg
Benefits and limits of SLS 3D printing
Benefits of SLS 3D printing
No need for support: 3D printing complex and functional parts
Since unused powder remains in the powder bed, it naturally acts as support for the following sintered layers. This support, which is present all over, allows the 3D printing of very complex and/or functional parts and prototypes. It’s also possible to 3D print objects within objects, also known as nesting. This is not possible with other 3D printing technologies such as FFF and FDM (extrusion) or SLA and DLP (resins).
It is possible to re-use powder that has not been sintered. This significantly reduces material waste and costs compared to other 3D printing techniques. Also, no material is wasted on support structures.
Multiple layers of parts to be 3D printed with SLS technology.
A functional, moving part 3D printed with the Sinterit Lisa SLS 3D printer.
Limitations of powder SLS 3D printing
Just like any technology, SLS 3D printing has its downsides:
- Porosity/rough surface: SLS 3D printed objects are porous, though it is possible to apply sealant to alter their sandy, granular-like surfaces.
- Expensive material: the price for one kilogram of PA12 powder ranges from around $55 to about $180.
- Logistics: due to the volatile nature of powder, extra caution is required when handling the material and taking the final 3D print out of the powder bed.
In addition, desktop SLS 3D printers still have relatively broad dimensions (and weight)– they’re not like an inkjet paper printer that can casually sit next to a computer. They are more like “bench top” 3D printers that, ideally, need their own workspace.
SLS vs FDM vs SLA
Sinterit’s 3D printing technologies comparison.
SLS vs FDM (FFF)
Compared to Fused Filament Fabrication, SLS can:
- achieve higher quality prints
- provide thinner layers and wall thicknesses
- generate complex 3D prints without the need for support
However, Selective Laser Sintering 3D printers offer much less available choice for materials (and colors).
SLS vs SLA
Compared to stereolithography 3D printing technology, Selective Laser sintering offers:
- thinner wall thicknesses
- complex 3D prints without support structures
That being said, SLA 3D prints have smoother surfaces than SLS 3D prints.
SLS 3D printing: what materials are available?
Main SLS 3D printing powders
Most desktop SLS 3D printers use Polyamide (PA) powdered material, also known as Nylon. The main PA powders available on the market are:
- Nylon PA12
- Nylon PA11
Then there are composite or “charged” powders, meaning that different materials are mixed with PA material. The most common are the following:
- Alumide: PA mixed with aluminum (shiny, metallic appearance)
- Carbonamide: PA reinforced with carbon fibers (stiff and lightweight)
- Nylon 3200: PA filled with glass (more chemical and heat resistance than PA12)
There is also PEBA 2031, a flexible, rubbery and resistant plastic powder. Some manufacturers produce elastic TPU powders (such as Sinterit’s Flexa Black and Flexa Grey) to 3D print shock absorbers, clothing parts, bellows, etc.
Nylon SLS 3D printing material
Nylon, or Polyamide (PA), is the most common powdered material used by SLS 3D printers. It boasts many interesting characteristics:
- Lightweight: Polyamide is a lightweight 3D printing material.
- Robust: this material can bear loads or be used for mechanical parts.
- Flexible: Nylon can bend and come back to its original form.
- Resistance: PA offers good heat and chemical resistance.
Manufacturers generally sell their own, branded powder material.
Sintratec’s PA12 powder.
Other notable professional SLS 3D printers
Polyforge SLS 3D printer
Polyforge is planning to launch their new affordable desktop SLS 3D printer on Indiegogo soon. The machine’s price has not yet been determined, but it will be somewhere between $10K and $20K. It features a 195 mm x 195 mm x 195 mm build volume and a safety system preventing the laser from working while the printer is open. In addition, Polyforge SLS 3D printer users will be able to use a variety of materials.
The SnowWhite is a desktop SLS 3D printer from the well-known Italian manufacturer Sharebot. This 3D printer has been on the market for a few years now, and is at a higher price level (€35K) than today’s desktop SLS 3D printers. Also, it offers a smaller build volume of 100 x 100 x 100 mm, but tolerates generic material.
Norge Ice 1 and Norge Ice 9 (acquired by Prodways)
These two desktop SLS 3D printers are from the Italian manufacturer Norge. The company was acquired by Prodways in 2015. Since then, the Norge Ice evolved into the Prodways P1000, a bigger, industrial SLS 3D printer.
The Norge Ice9 SLS 3D printer.
Vulcaman’s DIY-SLS-3D-PRINTER, unassembled.
DIY and open source SLS 3D printers
For those who like to make things from scratch, there are a few sources of information and instructions. The process is definitely not as easy as for FFF 3D printer kits, but it’s doable with patience and special precaution. Indeed, laser sintering implies the use of high-power laser beams that can cause irreversible, physical harm.
A 17-year-old German student created his own desktop SLS 3D printer– and the instructions are available online. However, this isn’t a project that one can take up over just one week-end. It requires a lot of time, effort and caution.
Just as for FFF 3D printers, there is an open source, online page for an SLS 3D printer project on the RepRap website called OpenSLS. The project is under development at Rice University (Houston, Texas) in Dr. Jordan Miller’s Physiologic Systems and Advanced Materials Laboratory.
You-SLS 3D printer
At 18 years old, Lukas Hoppe built his own $2K DIY SLS 3D printer with the help of crowdsourced funds from Indiegogo. His goal was to provide open-source files for everyone, but to this day no You-SLS 3D printer open files are available.