Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing is quickly becoming an important tool for the prototyping and low-volume production of parts within a wide range of industries.
Despite this, many businesses that could possibly benefit from adopting the technology have been put off by barriers to entry, such as initial costs, training and spatial viability. Meanwhile, 3D printer manufacturer Sinterit markets its Lisa and Lisa Pro machines as accessible desktop options, with the aim of making SLS printing as efficient as possible.
The Polish company has released a cost analysis, showing that parts like battery levers, bike pedals and suspension pieces, can be printed in short production runs at a lower cost than they can be individually. Sinterit’s calculations show the importance of powder control, as well as the potential savings that could be achieved by optimizing the SLS process.
Making SLS a more cost-friendly proposition
Using an SLS system can quickly get expensive, and when servicing, materials and operator costs are taken into account, this could make potential adopters wary of making the switch. Another aspect worth considering, is the sheer size of some industrial machines, as some units are large enough to take up an entire room.
Smaller, spatially-limited businesses are unlikely to be able to fit such sizeable machines into their offices, nor do they need to produce parts in the same quantities as industrial clients. In order to cater for those customers seeking a more compact alternative, Sinterit has released its Lisa and Lisa Pro systems, which are designed to prototype parts quickly and efficiently.
The company’s desktop machines are potentially an attractive proposition for those engaging in low-level production, as it offers them the chance to use the technology, without the upfront costs. Similarly, Sinterit has built its systems to be accessible, meaning that users won’t need to call an engineer for their servicing needs – as they can do it themselves.
This user-friendly approach could reduce the need for expensive call-outs too, and allow customers to maximize the performance of their machines, without needing to contact an expert. In fact, Sinterit maintains that both printers can be operated “easily” after an online training course which lasts less than two hours.
Sinterit’s powder-efficient machines
As with all SLS systems, Sinterit’s Lisa doesn’t sinter all of the powder in its build chamber during printing, and while some of it is used to support the part, a certain quantity is inevitably wasted. What the company has done though, is design its printers with a built-in efficiency that could save its clients a considerable amount in materials over the machine’s lifetime.
Sinterit has also targeted an improvement in its users’ ‘powder refresh rate,’ and through a material and system optimization approach, it has managed to decrease this from 30% to 26%. The firm’s efficiency drive has lowered the overall cost of printing with its machines, yielding material saving costs of more than 5%, that will ultimately feed back to its clients.
To demonstrate the cost-saving potential of its machines, Sinterit has released a detailed analysis based on the idea that printing multiple objects within the same build chamber, can lead to greater efficiency. For instance, the company has stated that if one of its clients was to print one battery lever per week at a refresh rate of 26%, it would pay €17.40 for that part, but if it produced 170 they would cost just €0.51.
Similarly, fabricating items such as an individual bike pedal using Sinterit’s PA12 Smooth powder would cost €25.70, but printing eight would make them €8.80 each. As a result, there are mitigating factors to the company’s analysis, but it has claimed that by engaging in shorter production runs, its clients could make more products from the materials they use.
The benefits of making SLS more accessible
Given that most SLS systems are likely to be utilized for prototyping purposes, avoiding breakdowns is critical, as they could lead to costly production delays or creation of faulty parts. Consequently, users need to understand the basics of their 3D printers, in order to safely and productively print objects, and machine usability plays an important role in this.
Sinterit’s Lisa machines, meanwhile, could be considered well-suited to new users, as they feature a simplified setup, as well as a basic, streamlined operating software that’s designed to be easy to navigate. Due to the approachable nature of the firm’s machines, a number of clients have recently adopted them within new prototyping applications, including development of textile and medical devices.
Two students from the Royal College of Art in London for instance, recently utilized a Sinterit system to print the pleating of a costume for the Beijing Opera. The technology has since been demonstrated within the fashion industry too, and could potentially be used in the production of decorative items, upholstery or even automotive seating applications in future.
Ultimately, Sinterit’s accessibility-driven approach has enabled various colleges and businesses of all sizes to adopt SLS technology, and deliver high quality prototype parts. Following the firm’s latest guidance on multiple part printing, its client base could also significantly reduce their expenditure in these areas, by making more from the powder used in their machines.
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Featured image shows Polish designer Bartlomiej Gaczorek using 3D software to design his Sinterit 3D printed mask. Photo via Sinterit.