Haikuan Zhu and Zichun Zhong are academic researchers from Computer Modeling and Imaging Visualization Lab at Wayne State University’s (WSU) Computer Science Department. They have been working in geometric modeling and digital designing for more than 12 years. WSU’s recent research has involved manufacturing 3D objects with complex geometric structures and mechanical properties for real-world scenarios in automobile, aerospace, biomedical, and other industries.

Additive manufacturing (AM), a.k.a. 3D printing, enables the layer-by-layer fabrication of physical objects from digital models. AM processes are touted to reduce lead times and enable greater design freedom. That said, reducing the material used in 3D printing is an important problem and has not been well studied due to its high cost and complicated design.

A WSU-optimized 3D model being prepared in Sinterit’s proprietary slicing software. Source: Sinterit/WSU

Optimizing material usage

WSU’s research team developed a material-saving software solution consisting of computing a volumetric hollowing of a shape’s interior under stress and with some exterior force constraints. The goal is to produce parts with less material and without compromising on strength.

As a result, WSU’s optimized digital 3D models feature complex geometrical and topological structures. However, such models are a real challenge for FDM-based 3D printers, requiring complex support structures and offering low accuracy.

Parts optimized by WSU and 3D printed on the Lisa PRO. Source: Sinterit/WSU

WSU and the Lisa PRO

Wayne State University bought Sinterit’s Lisa PRO around six months ago to overcome this challenge, as their FDM-based 3D printer could no longer meet their needs in terms of print quality. They needed a state-of-the-art SLS 3D printing methodology to fabricate hollow structures. WSU chose the Lisa PRO solution, the most powerful and recent SLS 3D printer with a compact footprint and easy workflow.

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$ 17,990

The Sinterit Lisa Pro is an office size SLS 3D printer made by Sinterit, a manufacturer from Poland. Sinterit is a pioneer in the desktop powder 3D printer market.

We were invited to travel to Sinterit’s headquarters to test the Lisa Pro. Find out more in our full Sinterit Lisa Pro review.

This powder 3D printer for professionals is based on the Sinterit Lisa SLS 3D printer. Like its predecessor, the Lisa Pro uses Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing technology. Also called laser sintering, this 3D printing technique uses a laser as a power source to sinter powdered material directly in the 3D printer bed.

Furthermore, the Lisa Pro has a built-in nitrogen chamber. This eliminates oxygen from the 3D printing process so that the material will not oxidize and will not lose its properties. This feature allows for more material possibilities.

The Lisa PRO offers significantly higher quality prints than FDM 3D printers. Thanks to this dramatic upgrade, WSU researchers were able to quickly solve their problem: to print high-quality interior structures with high accuracy, without requiring notoriously complex support structures.

Since their lightweight, hollow structures have intricate topologies and geometries, the need for high printing accuracy is very demanding. WSU can use the Lisa PRO to fabricate their test models because the printer offers high accuracy while requiring no supporting structures.

WSU’s Sinterit Lisa PRO setup (from left to right: Sinterit powder sieve, sandblaster, and Lisa PRO. Source: Sinterit/WSU

Further benefits of using the Lisa PRO include ultra-smooth print surfaces achieved before any post-processing, and, secondly, the fact that the loose, remaining powder can be totally removed and reused with the help of a sandblaster.