Selective laser sintering is popular in many industries, particularly where complex geometries and robust functional parts are needed.
So it isn't surprising that there are a lot of areas in which it can be applied. But what are the most popular selective laser sintering applications?
Currently, the most popular selective laser sintering applications are aerospace, medical, automotive, prototyping, and tooling.
More and more sectors are exploring the potential of incorporating additive manufacturing into their production processes as the technologies continue to develop, and many industries are now exploring the possibilities of using selective laser sintering.
What Is Selective Laser Sintering?
Selective laser sintering is an additive manufacturing process that uses an intense carbon dioxide laser to fuse, or sinter, a metal or polymer powder together in layers to create a finished component or product.
The laser fuses the powder bed's powder by tracing a precise design onto the powder bed surface, creating layers which are added on top of one another to create the parts.
SLS 3D printing is part of the powder bed fusion category and does not require support structures, unlike other 3D printing techniques, and offers engineers a lot of design freedom.
Unlike other 3D printers, which can be scaled down for home use, the technology used in selective laser sintering printers means they are large industrial machines that are more suited to producing parts at a large scale.
With this method, highly complicated geometries can be produced quickly and completely autonomously from 3D CAD data.
5 Popular Selective Laser Sintering Applications
When it comes to selective laser sintering, it isn't surprising that there are many applications as it is a popular 3D printing technology.
Due to recent advancements in equipment, software, and materials, more and more organizations are using SLS printing.
Here are 5 of the most popular, and exciting, SLS applications.
1. The Aerospace Industry
Aerospace is one of the applications that has latched onto selective laser sintering.
The industry has embraced SLS technology because it helps to save time. Engineers employ additive manufacturing to produce parts and components to cut costs and reduce manufacturing time.
The aerospace sector benefits from the development of new high-temperature materials. Aerospace applications have long made use of additive manufacturing. Recent advancements have meant SLS technology can help to improve efficiency along the aerospace supply chain.
It has significant effects on product design and part production, assembly, and maintenance in the aerospace sector, in addition to serving as a rapid prototyping technique for saving money and time throughout the product development phase.
2. The Medical Industry
The medical industry has started to see increased adoption of selective laser sintering, and despite first being created for the manufacturing industry, SLS printing has recently attracted a lot of interest in the medical field.
The conventional solution for surgical instruments or implantable grade material was casting or machining. However, SLS printers now allow the medical sector to explore the rapid production of models, tools or parts.
Selective laser sintering structural models are used in orthopaedics, biomedical engineering, and dental and neurological surgery. They are primarily employed in medicine to help with diagnosis, therapy planning, and implant manufacture.
Selective laser sintering technology is being researched for manufacturing implants with unique geometrical qualities, such as scaffolds for tissue restoration, thanks to the additive aspect of the processes included in them.
SLS models have also proven effective in several surgical procedures, and as the technology improves, it's likely many more uses in the medical field will pop up.
3. The Automotive Sector
It isn't surprising that selective sintering has made its way into the automotive industry, particularly when you take into account the new technological advances the industry sees each year.
Alongside its uses for mass-production vehicles, SLS technology has also been used to assist racing teams in developing innovative car designs and testing them more quickly than would be possible with conventional methods.
Formula One is a successful example of a motorsport organization utilizing selective laser sintering 3D printing, where the parts can be quickly produced, tested and refined to ensure maximum performance.
Along with a wide range of core and intricate parts, SLS is primarily employed for the aerodynamic construction of racing cars.
4. Rapid Prototyping
The characteristics of selective laser sintering materials are similar to those of machined parts, in contrast to other additive manufacturing processes.
This means the parts can be used for functional testing, as well as for marketing purposes, which means a much faster time to market for new or improved parts and products.
The challenges associated with bringing items to market on a broader scale have decreased as selective laser sintering is utilized more frequently today.
The most time-consuming and expensive stage of the designing process is frequently the metal injection of mould tooling.
Generally, a toolmaker needs at least months to create moulds for validating the design and making the product, irrespective of how swiftly and effectively the design team operates.
Traditional methods can be quickly replaced by rapid tooling and modular moulds, enabling tool inserts to be created relatively quickly.
Rapid injection mould tooling makes it possible to produce prototype parts of good enough quality to thoroughly test the goods and the market. This stimulates the market and gives the corporation useful input on new products regarding their market potential.
Unquestionably, selective laser sintering has significantly impacted additive manufacturing over the last several years.
As it draws the attention of a growing number of industries, its potential and application are continually expanding. As seen above, quite a few popular selective laser sintering applications exist.