Nov.17, 2014

Last month we wrote an article about Brandon Fosdick's SLS 3D printer project, an impressive, home-made construction which would only cost a fraction of the price you'd be paying for industrial-grade SLS printers.

Today Fosdick informs us that he has a funding campaign nearly ready to go. "It's in review right now, and I hope to have it launched sometime this week." said Fosdick.

Fosdick's SLS 3D printer, named Ester, will be an affordable desktop Selective Laser Sintering 3D printer. For those of you who don't know, SLS 3D printers avoid extrusion printing entirely, and instead create objects selectively solidifying very fine powder materials using a laser. Fosdick's Ester features 1,000cc build volume and sub-millimeter resolution. In addition, by using Laser Sintering technology, Ester doesn't require the use of support material. The powder surrounding the part holds it in place so that you can print parts on top of each other.

While existing SLS machines can cost up to and over $1 million, and even the 'budget' versions can cost you as much as $100,000. Ester aims to bring Selective Laser Sintering to everyone. Fosdick says the Ester Developer Kit is designed to use materials that are readily available and don't require expensive fabrication steps. All of the components can be bought online or made at your local workshop.

The project is designed for Makers and hardcore prototypers. The printer currently is able to print with layer heights of around 150 microns and 125 micron, depending on the model. Fosdick's goal is to print 100 micron layers reliably enough to start the print and walk away. "Mechanically, Ester can go well below 100 microns, but that's currently uncharted territory, and below 50 microns the size of the powder grain becomes the limiting factor." Fosdick explains.

In addition, although Ester will ship configured for sintering polyester powder, Fosdick says you can also try many other materials. "It's just a matter of finding the right parameters for each material." He explains. "Once you have your very own Ester you'll be able to experiment with sintering anything you can imagine. Chocolate, anyone?"

"Currently polyester powder can be printed at high resolution, but low strength. Nylon can be printed at high strength but low resolution. This will very likely change as development continues. As more people try more materials we'll learn what parameters work for each material. As more people buy SLS printers, we'll be able to convince the nylon suppliers to offer finer grained powder at more reasonable prices. It's all up to you!"

The Ester prototypes' target specifications include:

  • Build size: 150mm x 150mm x 150mm
  • Layer height: 100 microns or less
  • X/Y resolution: 100 microns or better
  • Laser power: 4 Watts
  • Laser Wavelength: 808nm
  • Material: Anything that's a fine powder (<50 micron grain size)

Currently Fosdick is still working on finalizing controller board, controller firmware, software and hardware design. Once they are ready, they will be released as open source so everyone can design their own Ester.

For those who love tinkering with 3D printers, Fosdick is offering five of Ester 3D printers to "Alpha Testers" for $2,500 only. The printer will be shipped in March 2015. The first batch of Developer Kits will be priced at $3,000 each and available to 10 backers. Another 100 Developer Edition Kit will be available for $3,500, which are expected to be delivered in May 2015. A kit will contain all of the parts and hardware needed to assemble an Ester Developer Edition printer. A fully assembled Ester is priced at $4,000.

Check out videos below the introduction of the Ester SLS 3D printer. You can find more info about this project on its Campaign Preview here.

Update: Nov.18, 2014

The Ester SLS 3D Printer indiegogo campaign is now LIVE. Here is the link.

Posted in 3D Printers


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witt wrote at 5/12/2017 3:12:06 PM:

Can you tell me, if possible, some more about power and wavelength of lasers applied in technics of SLS? - I mean: What would be a diiference between pirinted details, from the same powder material, when we have WL = 450 nm, and WL = 800 nm in laser diode? And we use 2000mW laser. What gives wave length shifting?

Brandon Fosdick wrote at 11/18/2014 6:08:40 PM:

The shipping version of Ester will have a full enclosure. I left it off in all of the prototypes because it was easier to debug it that way. Surprisingly I was able to get pretty good performance without needing the enclosure. Laser safety isn't as much of an issue because the beam is so tightly focused (and therefore diverges very quickly after any reflections). The one big problem is that powder goes everywhere. I've already added an enclosure to the design, but it just looks like a box. Not very good for taking pictures.

Joe Q. wrote at 11/18/2014 4:32:22 PM:

For the consumer / hobbyist market, FDM is a good fit from a health and safety point of view -- there is not much that can go wrong with plastic filament. Curable materials (SLA) are another matter, as most of them are strong irritants. Nylon powders (SLS) are a combustion and possible inhalation hazard. My understanding is that the really tricky part in SLS is getting the powder bed to a completely even homogeneous temperature -- this step is required for proper part consolidation and dimensional control -- I wonder how this is accomplished in the low-end machines.

D de Waard wrote at 11/18/2014 12:23:53 PM:

yes, FDM has been explored well, there are many consumer grade SLA and DLP printers already, its time for the powder based printers to take a large chunk of the consumer market. finally! i have seen the absurd quality of the sintratec sls printer, i have also seen some print screenshots of this one, quality seems to be significantly lower...

Andreas wrote at 11/18/2014 9:40:25 AM:

And what about the guys from Switzerland that just launched theyr IndieGogo-Campaign for the Sintratec SLS Printer? It's priced below 5K$ too (a bit more expensive than this stuff here) but looks quite a bit more professional having a full case around it to protect you at least a little from hazardous laser beams and plastic dust... Looks like 2015 will be the year of the first "prosumer" SLS releases of several newcomers. I guess around 2016 we should have some reliable and fairly cheap laser sintering machines available for everyone.

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