Selective Laser Sintering (SLS®) is an additive rapid manufacturing (or 3D Printing) process that builds three dimensional parts by using a laser to selectively sinter (heat and fuse) a powdered material. The printing process begins with a 3D CAD file which is mathematically sliced into 2D cross-sections. The SLS prototype or part is built a layer at a time until completed.
Parts can be created from a range of powder materials, including Nylon-11 and Nylon-12 polyamides, or nylons with fillers such as glass beads or carbon fibers (to enhance physical properties). SLS material properties can be comparable to those found with traditional manufacturing methods.
While SLS prototype production began as a way to build parts early in the design cycle, it is now being used to manufacture end-use parts.
Basic coloring of SLS parts is now available with Solid Concepts’ proprietary ColorTek process. ColorTek is an excellent alternative to paint for parts requiring non-cosmetic color. This colorizing process is particularly useful for making standard black SLS materials look richer and darker in color. Standard colors available with ColorTek are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and black.
Weight Reduction is an exceptional attribute on many SLS applications, particularly within the aerospace industry. The SLS process provides engineers with the ability to incorporate differing cross-section designs and integrate components into unitized structures, saving weight over conventional multi-part assemblies. Many applications making use of Solid Concepts Nylon-11 based materials (NyTek-1100 series) have been able to convert what were extruded, cast or mandrel bent aluminum parts into SLS manufactured “drop-in” components. These parts have realized a 30% to 50% weight reduction.
Functional Parts that are durable, heat and chemical resistant result from utilizing the SLS process. These parts can be readily joined mechanically or with adhesives. Secondary operations may include sealants, coatings, and metallization through vapor deposition or electroplating processes. To get the most out of SLS technology, parts should be specifically designed for the process to make full use of the unique benefits of additive layer manufacturing. Your design efforts can now focus on functionality, allowing for more robust designs with fewer restrictions.
Parts Consolidation is a natural by-product for companies that design for the additive manufacturing process. Multiple piece-parts can be designed as an integrated structure that leverages the benefits of SLS by combining numerous components into a single unitized assembly. This reduction in part numbers will save assembly time and reduce assembly weight.
Repeatable Process Control
Repeatable Process Control amongst machines is critical to building consistent Selective Laser Sintered parts and prototypes. The structure and properties of parts made by the SLS process depend on both process parameters and powder characteristics. Solid Concepts has implemented proprietary process controls and procedures to assure consistent handling and recycling of powder materials for consistent build quality. These parameters include material traceability, monitoring the mixing and testing of powder prior to builds, monitoring the thermal process during the build, and post-process testing of tensile bars to assure the quality and repeatability of every SLS build.
Direct Digital Manufacturing
Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) is the SLS process for rapid manufacturing of functional parts direct from digital data without tooling. DDM eliminates the cost of creating, maintaining, storing and transporting expensive tooling while providing you with a virtual, on-demand inventory that’s just a telephone call away. DDM can also be cost effective if a design is subject to change during production and avoids the costs and delays needed for additional tooling.
Production Aerospace Expertise
Production Aerospace Expertise is critical to many of our customers. Solid Concepts has assembled an expert team with critical SLS process knowledge for aerospace applications using DDM for production flight hardware. If you have an aerospace application, you’ll want to call on the experience of our Business Development Managers and see your project through with one of our knowledgeable Aerospace Project Engineers.