Table of contents
- What desktop SLS 3D printers are available on the market?
- The best desktop SLS 3D printers for professionals
- 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 $5,500, today’s professional desktop SLS 3D printers are much more affordable than before (although 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 best desktop SLS 3D printers available on the market, following the selection criterion below:
- SLS 3D printing technology
- Available under $20,000
- Desktop or “bench-top” dimensions
The best desktop SLS 3D printers for professionals
|3D printer||Build volume||Country||Price*||Buy|
|Sintratec Kit||130 x 130 x 130 mm||Switzerland||€4,990||Quote|
|Sinterit Lisa||150 x 200 x 150 mm||Poland||€5,990||Quote|
|Formlabs Fuse 1||165 x 165 x 320 mm||United States||$9,999||Quote|
|Sinterit Lisa Pro||150 x 200 x 260 mm||Poland||€11,990||Quote|
|Natural Robotics VIT SLS||250 x 250 x 300 mm||Spain||-||Quote|
|RED ROCK 3D RED ROCK||180 x 180 x 180 mm||Russia||-||Quote|
*MSRP: manufacturer suggested retail price. These prices are subject to change over time and/or from one country to another.
What is SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) technology?
How does Selective Laser Sintering work?
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is part of the Powder Bed Fusion family of 3D printing technologies. This technology 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 off 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.
Powder can be harmful if ingested. These machines also use high-power laser beams that could be potentially dangerous if not used in a controlled environment.
Overview of the best desktop SLS 3D printers
- Country: Switzerland
- Build volume: 130 x 130 x 130 mm
- Dimensions: 600 x 520 x 380 mm
- Weight: 28 kg
- Price: $5,350
The Kit, as its name suggests, requires minimum assembly by its users before being ready to 3D print.
Sintratec also manufactures the Sintratec S1, another benchtop SLS 3D printer. It is delivered preassembled but costs between $20K and $30K. The Sintratec S2 is also available, and is an end-to-end SLS solution.
- Country: Poland
- Build volume: 150 x 200 x 150 mm
- Dimensions: 620 x 400 x 660 mm
- Weight: 41 kg
- Price: €5,990
This 3D printer offers a relatively large build volume for a desktop 3D printer, and even more so for an SLS 3D printer in this price range.
With the Lisa it is possible to 3D print flexible material (Flexa Black/Grey) or rigid, strong material (PA12). The Sinterit Lisa features a built-in camera and touchscreen for an easier user experience.
Formlabs Fuse 1
- Country: United States
- Build volume: 165 x 165 x 320 mm
- Dimensions: 677 x 668 x 1059 mm
- Weight: 88 kg
- Price: $9,999
Formlabs, originally an SLA 3D printer manufacturer, introduced the Fuse 1, an SLS 3D printer to be released in the future. Due to its weight and dimensions, the Fuse 1 is considered a benchtop 3D printer rather than a desktop 3D printer.
A live-feed offers insight on 3D printing progress thanks to the Fuse 1’s integrated webcam. It is also possible to add parts to a build that has already started. The build chamber is removable, making parts removal easier.
- Country: Poland
- Build volume: 150 x 200 x 260 mm
- Dimensions: 690 x 500 x 880 mm
- Weight: 90 kg
- Price: €11,990
The chamber prevents oxygen from entering the build volume and oxidizing certain materials. Hence, the Lisa Pro is compatible with more sensitive powders.
The Lisa Pro SLS printer also provides a bigger print volume as well as a larger touchscreen than the Lisa.
Natural Robotics VIT SLS
- Country: Spain
- Build volume: 250 x 250 x 300 mm
- Hardware dimensions: 800 x 600 x 950 mm
- Weight: –
- Price: €11,000
The VIT SLS offers a relatively large build volume compared to the other 3D printers in this range, allowing for even more parts to be 3D printed at once. A 7-inch touchscreen offers a friendly user experience, and Wi-Fi connectivity enables standalone 3D printing.
Natural Robotics designs and manufactures its 3D printers in Barcelona, Spain. Users can 3D print with generic material thanks to a full access to system calibration, although the VIT SLS is optimized for PA12.
RED ROCK 3D RED ROCK
- Country: Russia
- Build volume: 180 x 180 x 180 mm
- Hardware dimensions: 800 x 430 x 770 mm
- Weight: 35 kg
- Price: –
RED ROCK 3D is a new 3D printer manufacturer from Russia. Its RED ROCK SLS 3D printer offers a relatively large build volume compared to most of the other desktop SLS 3D printers in this selection.
Little information about this SLS 3D printer is available on the RED ROCK 3D website.
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 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.
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 can range 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
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 material choice (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, SLS 3D prints have rougher surfaces than SLA 3D prints.
Sinterit’s 3D printing technologies comparison.
SLS 3D printing: what materials are available?
Main desktop 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. The most common are the following:
- Alumide: PA mixed with aluminum (shiny, metallic appearance)
- Carbonamide: PA reinforced with carbon fiber (stiff and lightweight)
- Nylon 3200: PA filled with glass (more chemical and heat resistant than PA12)
There is also PEBA 2031, a flexible, rubbery and resistant plastic powder. Some manufacturers produce elastic 3D printing 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.
SLS 3D printing in general
Desktop SLS printers are limited to plastics when it comes to material choice. However, when using larger, more expensive powder industrial 3D printers, it is possible to 3D print metal powder. Find out more in our metal 3D printing guide.
Sintratec’s PA12 powder.
Other notable professional SLS 3D printers
Polyforge SLS 3D printer
Polyforge was supposed to launch an affordable desktop SLS 3D printer on Indiegogo in 2015. This project seems to have been abandoned.
The SnowWhite is a desktop SLS 3D printer from the well-known Italian manufacturer Sharebot. This 3D printer has been on the market for quite a few years now, and is at a higher price level (€35K) than most of today’s desktop SLS 3D printers.
It also 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.
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.
Vulcaman’s DIY-SLS-3D-PRINTER, unassembled.