Jun 18, 2016 | By Andre
There are low-cost options for most of the 3D printing processes on the market today. Whether it’s a Printrbot for FDM, a Form 2 for SLA or any number of Kickstarted projects for DLP 3D printing, there exists an affordable entry-level choice for them all. But when it comes to selective laser sintering (SLS), there isn’t much in the works beyond SinterIT’s always intriguing $5,000 3D printer.
Well, it seems 17 year old aspiring electrical engineer and Instructables user Vulcaman is trying his best to change that and by the looks of his 400€ offering, he’s well on his way. His SLS 3D printer - still without an official name and riding high in the early-stages of development - has broken out from the proof of concept phase with tangible 3D prints to show for his efforts.
It seems cost and curiosity were driving forces for Vulcaman. He writes that “most SLS-3D-Printers are very expensive and only available for the industry. So I built my own printer.” And while rudimentary in its current state, a 1W 445nm laser, 8cm3 build volume and print speeds that are said to be able to hit 300mm/s demonstrate how far you can push a little money providing you’re willing to put the work in. And there’s no question a lot of work was put into it.
Also, in the spirit of what instructables stands for, the project is fully open-sourced with a complete bill of materials and model files already organized for download. For the most part, the materials are very standard in the DIY 3D printer world. From the Nema17 stepper motors to Aruduino Mega 2560 to a Raspberry Pi to the RAMPs controller board, sourcing the parts should be a piece of cake if your interested in building one for yourself.
The STL files for the 3D printed parts appear to be built sturdy and capable of being produced without the use of support structures. While black PLA, a 0.2mm layer height and 25% infill was used for the prototype, there’s no reason to think ABS and a variation of his print settings couldn’t be used to achieve the same results.
Some 3D printer enthusiasts may begin feeling out of place when required to build the frame as some woodworking is necessary. But even then, the CAD files are available for download so you should be okay with a little help from a Makerspace equipped with laser or CNC cutting equipment.
Much of the build instructions revolve around the assembly process, which makes sense considering the complexity of the project, so I won’t go into too much detail there. I did find it interesting how he used slic3r (a popular print file creation tool for standard plastic printers) to create the gcode for his unit with specialized modifications to take into account the powder placement pusher necessary in SLS 3D printing.
Every SLS 3D printer I’ve ever worked with has nylon12 as the primary material (or possibly a glass or aluminum filled variant). For this project, that was deemed too expensive so he experimented with sugar (no success) and eventually a black powder that got the job done for testing purposes.
In the end, he admits he’ll probably move onto nylon once more kinks are worked out and continuosly stresses safety first (lasers and fine powders after all) throughout the Instructable. It's also apparent that he remains hard at work refining things further (now with the help of an eager Instructables community to give him pointers along the way).
SLS 3D printing is the driving force behind most of the success 3D printing companies are having so there’s no question the technology has its perks. The introduction of low-cost SLS machines is paramount if wider consumer adoption is going to take place so stories like this always keep me coming back, hoping for more. All this at the age of 17. Big congratulations and keep at it is all I can wish for his future this clever inventor.
Posted in 3D Printer
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