For years the manufacturing world has traded full design freedom for the guarantee of manufacturability. After all, what good is a design that cannot be brought to life? This design limitation is being challenged in some industries and disregarded in others as additive manufacturing technologies and materials continue to evolve. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is an additive process that features a robust and growing range of industrial materials engineered to rival injection molding. While the decision to adopt 3D printing for production will vary from application to application, industrial SLS can offer a better total value proposition in terms of quality, time-to-market, and cost per cubic inch in many situations.
Where SLS beats injection molding
SLS printing frees manufacturers from certain constraints – not only in part volume and production timelines, but in design capabilities. With AM, designers gain freedom from common injection molding limitations, including:
- Constant wall thickness requirements
- Constrained rib geometries
- Static final designs and tooling
“The new design and manufacturing options offered by additive manufacturing open the door to improved products, new designs, new business models, and new markets. The key is knowing when to use thermoplastic additive manufacturing instead of conventional injection molding.” – excerpt from "The New World of Thermoplastic Manufacturing" white paper
Mass custom manufacturing with SLS
Freedom from the design constraints of injection molding is only part of the story. Another major advantage of SLS and other additive manufacturing technologies lies in the unprecedented opportunity to directly manufacture customized goods. By offering manufacturers a direct path from CAD file to robust final parts without tooling, SLS enables mass custom production at an affordable cost. SLS even allows engineers to rethink assemblies and consolidate parts into functional monolithic components that not only reduce costs and accelerate production, but can offer performance benefits as well. These capabilities are unique to the additive process and are inspiring new business models and markets for mass customized goods.
Accessing performance with SLS thermoplastics
The fact that additive manufacturing can produce geometries that are otherwise impossible is an exciting prospect, but in order to put theory into practice with confidence, you have to have access to the right materials for your task. This is what is so promising about SLS thermoplastics, which offer material properties that are comparable to conventionally manufactured goods while enabling the design freedom of additive.
3D Systems offers a family of SLS thermoplastics in nylon 11, nylon 12 and polystyrene that are engineered to match a wide range of performance requirements. Learn more about the different materials and material properties available with SLS by downloading our thermoplastics white paper.