Laser technology has advanced tremendously in the last 10 years. Many industries today use lasers for various purposes. In medicine, lasers are used for the marking of steel utensils but also when performing surgeries; the auto industry employs them for car parts marking, whereas in plastic surgery physicians use lasers to perform interventions with a lot more ease. The technology goes hand in hand with 3D printing.
Laser technology and 3D printing
3D printing and laser technology go hand in hand. SLS, also known as selective laser sintering is a special method that employs a process called powder bed fusion to create 3D objects. The material used is often nylon; which is transferred from bins containing fresh powder into the processing chamber using a recoating tool. Afterwards, a laser is used to scan the powder layers, sintering together with the particles thus making the first 3D layer of an object.
The laser scanning procedure generates current and adjoining layers simultaneously, thus crafting the solid part. As opposite to additional manufacturing processes, like FDM – fused deposition modeling and SLA – stereolithography, SLS – selective laser sintering doesn’t need support structures considering that the powder serves as a supporting material. This is excellent because it allows the construction of more complicated geometric pieces.
Applications for 3D printing with SLS result in designs with prototypes, moving parts, architectural models, consumer products, electronics housing, hardware, promotional items, sculptures, and more. As for SLS and FDM printing technologies, these are commonly used for similar printing processes.
SLM – selective laser melting
Selective laser melting (SLM) is yet another form of additive manufacturing technique used to print metal objects in 3D. The metallic powder is melted with a laser in specific areas. SLM makes use of lasers to soften successive metallic powder layers. The laser heats the particles in certain areas until it is completed melted. The melting process is dictated by the CAD 3D file in the machine; another bed of powder is added on top of the melted layer until the piece is completed.
The most widespread applications for SLM technology occurs in the aerospace industry. That’s because intricate parts are made using additive manufacturing; this surpasses limitations in conventional manufacturing. SLM can also be used in medicine. Certain prosthetics are made using this method of 3D printing because it permits the pieces to be customized after the anatomy of the patient. Manufacturing metallic pieces with 3D printing can additionally be done using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). However, there is a difference between the two – the degree at which the powder particles are melted; with DMLS, the melting is only done partially. This technique also uses other materials and not just metal. Some other common materials are aluminum, steel, nickel, cobalt-chromium and titanium.
3D printing with lasers and paper
There’s another type of technology that uses lasers for printing materials, namely SLD – selective deposition lamination. The technology resembles LOM – laminated object manufacturing. It involves using various layers of plastic, coated or metal laminates/paper that are glued together successively using a heated roller. These are cut and shaped using a laser cutter, and the process is done layer by layer.
Laser technology can be used in all sorts of industries. It certainly plays a key role in 3D printing, but it has become vital in other industries too. Commercial metal engraving uses lasers to mark all sorts of metallic pieces; from auto parts to metallic tags and medical utensils.