Sizing up Selective Laser Sintering System Providers

Selective laser sintering is a powder bed printing technology that raster’s a laser over a bed of very fine plastic powder and sinters it to produce individual part layers. To see what this long-standing technology’s outlook is, our analysts have taken a comparative look at the SLS system provider and materials landscape.

What you need to know about selective laser sintering:

  • Advantages: better strength isotropy in printed parts than fused filament fabrication (FFF) and stereolithography (SLA); ability to print complex geometries without supports; vertical nesting possible, which allows for more efficient printing
  • Challenges: limited range of commercially available materials; difficult to produce new polymer powders using existing techniques; equipment limitations in maximum temperature and temperature control; many major equipment manufacturers have a closed materials platform, limiting uptake of new materials
  • Recent Advances: high temperature system from EOS; lower cost desktop professional systems from Sinterit, Formlabs, and Sintratec; higher quality materials (polyetherketoneketone) and associated process from Oxford Performance Materials

PA = polyamide; TPE = thermoplastic polyethylene; PEEK = polyetheretherketone; PEKK = polyetherketoneketone; TPU = thermoplastic polyurethane 

Strategic recommendations:

  • Materials and chemicals suppliers should consider novel powder production methods to expand the range of thermoplastics for SLS printing and/or look to partner with startups like Structured Polymers, which have promising techniques for plastic powder production
  • Equipment developers can differentiate themselves by offering less expensive printer options or through technical advancements in temperature and printing speed
  • Product designers and manufacturers should consider SLS printing for custom products that require higher isotropic properties than FFF or SLA printing technologies currently offer. Success in implementing SLS printing for production quality parts will ultimately come from working with materials and printer developers to drive materials and process capabilities towards desired product specifications.

By: Olivia Hentz and Dayton Horvath