The 3D printing community has suffered a great loss as Carl Robert Deckard, the inventor of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), sadly passed away on December 23, 2019. A pioneer within additive manufacturing holding 27 patents, Deckard, supported by Dr. Joe Beaman, developed the SLS process as a student at the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin).
The birth of SLS
Born in Houston on June 20, 1961, Deckard grew up with ambitions of being an inventor. After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School, he enrolled at UT-Austin majoring in mechanical engineering, where, in his senior year, he decided to pursue a method to fabricate parts directly from drawings by using a laser to fuse together powder layer by layer in the shape of the part.
As the focus of his Master’s degree, Deckard further developed the concept which would later be known as SLS with the help of Dr. Beaman, an assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering. This resulted in an SLS-produced cube within another cube. Following this success, a grant from the National Science Foundation, this technology was advanced by Deckard as a Ph.D. student under the direction of Dr. Beaman.
Eventually, UT-Austin agreed to license the technology in 1988, which was a first for the institution. This enabled the commercialization of the first SLS system. Deckard then worked with Jim Mikulak and Vikram Devarajan, to create new polymers for use in SLS to improve the quality of 3D printed parts under their company, Structure Polymers. This was recently bought by Evonik.
The future of SLS
In 2017, Deckard and Devarajan spoke with 3D Printing Industry regarding their perspective on future opportunities for SLS and how they envision materials development addressing SLS printing’s core challenges across the value chain.
Deckard predicted that the next five years SLS 3D printers will experience an overhaul in their design that will remove the constraints on temperature, speed, and cost of earlier models. This will be similar to the advancement of FFF/FDM systems.
A celebration of Deckard’s life will be held this month. His family encourages those wanting to express their condolences to send donations to Austin Pets Alive, in lieu of flowers.
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Featured image shows Carl R. Deckard. Photo via AMUG.