Apr. 29, 2015 | By Alec

While FDM 3D printers look great and function great, many users invariably and jealously look towards more accurate and more functional 3D printing technologies such as SLA and SLS 3D printers. After all, not needing support structures or being able to print in more than plastic is a dream for many, and the 18-year-old German student Lukas Hoppe is one of them. He has therefore spent the last year or so working on an open-source SLS 3D printer, and through a successful Indiegogo campaign, he now has the funds to complete and share his YOU-SLS machine.

As Lukas explains, he only got into 3D printing a year ago, but quickly became a supporter of RepRap principles. However, Lukas quickly felt the lure of more expensive 3D printers. ‘There is only one workaround [for avoiding support materials]: industrial 3D printers that use a process called Selective Laser Sintering. This process allows for all geometry to be built accurately without support structure, but these printers are as expensive as a house,’ he explains. Ambitiously, he has decided to change that and develop the world’s first open source SLS 3D printer that includes all the features of an industrial machine and only costs $2000 : the YOU-SLS 3D printer.

Now we all think of overly ambitious projects every now and then, but Lukas has put a lot of work into actually making this possible as well. ‘At the current stage, the design work is almost done: all difficult problems have been addressed and all major decisions have been made. At this stage, there are only minor cosmetic decisions to be made. Therefore, there may be slight variations in the final design, but again, everything important is done. Now it has to be build an tested!’ he writes.

Throughout last year, he has thus made enormous strides, made mistakes and fixed many issues. ‘To create and verify the design, I went through countless experiments and tested many subsystems, such as the powder distributer. The experiments included the sintering of sugar, with my modified reprap FDM printer,’ he explains. All of that process can be seen on his Instructables page here, but still wasn’t finished.

As the young man had already poured all of his savings into the project, he recently turned to Indiegogo to gather $1,100 in funds to invest in the final development stages. ‘Even though this project is breaking the price of SLS projects down by ha huge number, it is still an expensive and work intensive project. The money will be used to purchase the numerous Laser cut aluminum/acrylic parts and the remaining electronics I haven’t acquired until now,’ he wrote at the time. ‘I am expecting this project to cost 1800-2200 euros in total. A big share of this has already been covered by me, while I was ordering the parts to get exact measurements or do experiments with.’

Fortunately the 3D printing community really came through for a project that can change open source RepRap 3D printing. In exchange for the ability to name parts of the design (and of course access to an open source SLS 3D printer), almost $2,000 has been raised with another 16 days still left on the clock (at the time of writing). This means that this promising young engineer will definitely have the funds to share a fantastic open source project with the rest of us.

Lukas talking about his interesting 3D printer.

And it’s certainly looking good. As he explains, the You-SLS will be the cheapest SLS printer on the market, while including all the key elements of typical industrial machines. Unlike most SLS 3D printers, the You-SLS will feature a X-Y-Z gantry system, as hardware and software for those systems is readily and freely available already. The laser sintering system itself will revolve around a laser-diode with 2 watts of power at a wavelength of 445nm. ‘It resembles the kind of laser you would find in a Blu-ray burner. It is visible and blue. At first, that doesn’t sound like a lot of power, but considering that most of the melting job is already done by the powerful heating units, the laser is only responsible for heating the powder up 10 more degrees to the melting point,’ Lukas explains.

The machine’s outer dimensions will be approximately 90 by 50 by 55 centimeters, while the print bed will be 20 by 15 by 10 centimeters in size. ‘This allows big parts to be printed diagonally, jet small parts can also be printed without using too much powder to fill the bed,’ Lukas writes. The whole machine will be controlled by the RepRap classic Ramps 1.4 board alongside a regular Arduino Mega. ‘Both of which can be aquired for less than 50 Euros. If you are into 3d printing, and maybe have played around with a rep-rap, there is no way you don’t know Ramps. However, controlling a SLS machine is a more complex task than controlling a FDM printer, therefore another Arduino that is in control of driving the recoater will support the Ramps-board,’ he explains. The rest will consist of commonly available parts to make building as easy and inexpensive as possible.

If that sounds great, be sure to keep an eye on Lukas’s Instructables to keep track of this promising open source 3D printer. But even better would be to support his Indiegogo campaign (which is still ongoing) as all pledges will be used to improve the machine and benefit all of us. Surely an open-source SLS 3D printer is worth a few bucks? 


Posted in 3D Printers


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Rosy wrote at 4/29/2015 3:06:58 PM:

Hi - Does this print silicone or rubber?

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