Today, Formlabs announced the release of its long-awaited selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printer, the Fuse 1. It is a new class of printer, a bench top industrial system, featuring what the company calls Surface Armor technology and a new Nylon 12 powder. The Fuse 1 also has a 70% powder refresh rate and, compared to traditional industrial SLS printers, the Fuse 1 is dramatically less expensive, coming in at $18,499.
The patent-pending Surface Armor technology is a semi-sintered shell that shields the surface of the part while offering a reliable, high quality surface finish and high refresh rates.
The Fuse 1 from Formlabs is not the only company in the desktop powder bed fusion and SLS segment. 3DPrint.com executive editor Joris Peels has been following the progress of this technology and recently noted, “Sinterit and Sintratec (in which the Langer family who owns EOS is an investor through AM Ventures) are growing in the desktop and inexpensive space, making machines between $5,000 and $20,000. There are also new entrants, such as WeMatter and NaturalRobotics.” Peels also observed that it has taken Formlabs quite some time to release the Fuse 1, deriving a conclusion that quality, low-cost SLS/PBF additive manufacturing machines are not as easy to design and manufacture as you would think.
But Formlabs has finally accomplished this after seven years of development with the bench top Fuse 1, which includes a post-processing system called Fuse sift. The Fuse sift system, Surface Armor technology, and the new Nylon 12 powder are all part of fulfilling the company’s promise of an end-to-end bench top SLS workflow for engineers and product design teams.
According to Formlabs CEO and Co-founder Max Lobovsky, “SLS 3D printing shouldn’t be solely for those with big budgets, it needs to be accessible so all companies —from startup to big manufacturer — can benefit from the design freedom and high productivity SLS 3D printing provides.”
SLS 3D printing technology has been used by engineers and large manufacturing outfits for rapid prototyping and printing end-use parts, but due to the complex nature and high-cost of SLS machines, many small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) have been left out. Formlabs is hoping that the Fuse 1 will change things for SMBs looking to reap the benefits of an affordable bench top SLS printer with workflow optimization features.
Smaller companies that outsource part production to injection molding companies for manufacturing could speed up their time-to-market by implementing a rapid prototyping workflow provided by the Fuse 1. The modular build chamber allows for continuous printing, which reduces downtime. Printing with 70% recycled powder saves money on materials, as does the material refresh rate (a minimum ratio of fresh powder needed to print) of 30 percent for minimal material waste.
The Fuse 1 would allow many smaller companies to encapsulate their entire product development process from concept to manufacturing end-use products from Nylon 12 powder, and might open up the floodgates for SMBs interested in a low-cost SLS bench top 3D printer for prototyping and production.
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