After an explosion in the number of fused deposition modeling 3D printers to hit the market in the last two years, it seems like stereolithgraphy technology is beginning to hit its stride as well, with companies like Autodesk entering the space later this year. All the while, one technology which as been reserved only for expensive professional grade printers, selective laser sintering(SLS), has remained unheard of from a consumer or lower-end printer standpoint.
This all changed when a company called Norge Systems, earlier this month, announced that they will soon offer two SLS 3D printers on Kickstarter, called the Ice1 and Ice9, starting at just $13,000. You may be thinking that $13,000 certainly is not cheap, but compared to the typical six to seven digits you’d normally pay, this would in fact be a revolutionary product for the space. Norge Systems doesn’t seem to be the only one working on such a machine. It appears that the flood gates may be just about to open for more affordable SLS printers. A new Swiss technology startup called Sintratec is also working on an SLS machine, which will be even cheaper than the printers that Norge Systems is launching next year.
Founded by Joscha Zeltner, Christian von Burg and Dominik Solenicki, who have been working on the technology behind their printer for almost two years now, Sintratec plans to launch an Indiegogo campaign for their machine in October. Below are some of the specifications the company has released to 3DPrint.com. Further details are forthcoming as we get closer to the launch date of the company’s crowdfunding campaign.
- Build Volume: 130x130x130 mm³ Printable
- Printer Size: 500x500x300 mm³
- Layer-Height: Depends on the sintering powder used. Most powders have a grain size of 40 to 80 microns. This determines the limiting minimum factor for the layer height. The upper limit is about 150 microns.
- Print Speed: For fully sintered results they determined the laser spot speed to be about 70 mm/s.
The printer works by layering powdered material, preferably nylon, in a print bed. A laser then sinters(melts) one layer of nylon, before an additional layer is placed on top. Because of this method, no support material is needed, as the powder surrounding the object as it is printed in the bed, acts as a support. When some people hear ‘laser sintering’ they immediately jump to the conclusion that metals are being melted. The Sintratec will not print in metal, as Dominik Solenicki , from Sintratec explains:
“Metal printing would be awesome indeed. But sadly it’s highly dangerous, it requires an inert atmosphere and tons of security features that would drive the price up insanely.”
Sintratec is hoping that they can offer these printers in kit form to backers for a rather affordable price of 3999€ ($5,277) or under. They have noted that in order to be able to offer these prices, by taking advantage of economies of scale, they will need to pre-sell at least 60 of these machines on Indiegogo, or have a crowd funding goal set at approximately 240,000€.
It will certainly be interesting to see where we are in another year or two. Will SLS 3D printers be commonplace, and how far will prices drop? Let’s hear your thoughts on this new printer which will soon come to market, in the Sintratec forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below provided by Sintratec, showing the printer in action.