There are so many great SLS 3D printers on the market – how do you decide which one is right for you? This guide is here to help you choose the best SLS 3D printer. Keep reading to learn more about how this printer operate, as well as the best desktop and industrial options available.
How Does an SLS 3D Printer Work?
These machines are corporate laser beams that center powdered material – but what exactly does that mean?
Essentially, a laser beam is melting and fusing powdered particles to form the specified object. As each layer is created, the additional powder is spread on top of the print bed. All of the excess powder sits on top of the bed to help support the object as it is built up.
You can remove the object from the print bed once the printing process is complete and the powder has cooled off. All you have to do after that is brush off the excess powder and you’re left with the final print!
There is almost no post-processing required compared to other types of 3D printing. However, this can vary depending on the type of object you are making.
Although SLS technology was cost-prohibitive 10 years ago, the introduction of compact printers into the market has made it more affordable. The machines have also gotten smaller so you can fit them in an office!
The SLS process allows you to make higher-quality prints since the layers are very thin. Fused filament fabrication, or FFF, requires thicker layers that can reduce your ability to add detail. Likewise, you can generate complex 3D objects without support – which can’t be said for other types of 3D printers.
The only major drawbacks to SLS 3D printers are the limited material choice and relatively high cost.
SLS 3D Printing Materials
As we mentioned, your material choices are limited when you work with certain SLS printers. Of course, if you choose a more expensive industrial model, you have a broader range of options.
The most common printing powder for a desktop SLS machine is Nylon. It is also known as Polyamide or PA for short. The most popular PA powders include Nylon PA11 and Nylon PA12. Many of the manufacturers also sell their own branded materials.
Another option is called charged powder, which mixes in different materials with PA.
For example, if you want a metallic appearance, you can use Alumide. This material is aluminum mixed with PA. The carbon fiber mixture is Carbonamide, and this material is ideal for objects that must be lightweight and stiff. If you need something that is more heat resistant, you can use Nylon 3200 which is PA filled with glass.
What if you need to make an object that is flexible and rubbery?
In that case, you can use PEBA 2031 or a proprietary elastic 3D printing powder made by the equipment manufacturers. Parts like shock absorbers are often made with this type of material.
If you purchase an advanced industrial printer, you can even print with metal powders or ceramics.
What is the Difference Between SLS and SLA?
Before moving forward with purchasing an SLS 3D printer, it is important to understand how these machines are different from SLA models.
Stereolithography printers, or SLA machines, also use lasers to create 3D objects. SLA lasers use UV rays to cure liquid resins and polymers, which are pretty affordable materials. The ultraviolet light is strategically aimed at the resin to create the print layer by layer.
SLS models, on the other hand, use high-powered lasers to sinter and compact metal powders. This requires a more substantial amount of energy to complete. Similarly, SLS does not work with liquids – it uses a wide variety of powders that range in price.
Since breathing in powders can be harmful, SLS 3D printers also require ventilation systems to improve safety measures.
Desktop SLS 3D Printers
Now that you have a general understanding of how an SLS printer works, here are some of the best desktop models available in 2021:
Starting off our list is the Lisa Printer by Sinterit. This machine has a build volume of 150 x 200 x 150 mm and is manufactured in Poland. Their company specializes in SLS technology, and this model is unique because it can print using a wide range of materials like thermoplastic polyurethane (TPE) and Flexa.
It weighs just over 40 kilograms, so it is an ideal size for an office or small workstation. You can purchase the Lisa for $13,000.
Next, we have the Kit by Sintratec. This affordable option retails for a little bit more than $6,000, but just because it is cheaper does not mean it compromises on quality. Its build volume is 110 x 110 x 110 mm, and it has a minimum layer thickness of 0.1 mm. Also, PA12 and TPE are both compatible with this machine.
This means that you can create detailed and accurate prints without having to go over budget! The Kit has been available since 2015, but it is still relevant for those just getting into the field of additive manufacturing.
Formlabs Fuse 1
Formlabs is one of the most well-known manufacturers when it comes to professional 3D printers. Their Fuse 1 SLS printer can use flexible and firm nylon parts and has a build volume of 165 x 165 x 320 mm. This model is a bit more heavy-duty, so it weighs 114 kilograms. The price of $18,500 is ideal for companies that want to develop and manufacture prototypes and parts.
Another thing that makes this SLS 3D printer unique is a feature that allows you to collect leftover powder for future builds. The Fuse 1 will work with up to 70% recycled materials, which means you only need to add in 30% new material each time you print. In other words, this can save you a significant amount of money in the long run!
Natural Robotics VIT SLS
Another great desktop SLS printer is the VIT by Natural Robotics. It is manufactured in Spain and retails for a little less than $13,000.
What makes this model unique is that it supports printing with different types of thermoplastics like nylon and PC. It’s ideal for creating complex geometric shapes at rapid speeds too.
It can print add up to 20mm/h with a minimum layer thickness of 0.05 mm. Not only is this machine fast, but it is also precise!
Red Rock 3D
If you’re looking for a newly released SLS 3D printer, consider the Red Rock 3D. Russian manufacturer Red Rock released this machine in January 2021. The goal was to provide a tool optimized for functional prototyping and pilot studies.
Its build volume is substantial at 180 x 180 x 180 mm, and it comes with a quick-release front panel and open powder recycling bunker. Not much else is known about this printer since it is relatively new, and you will need to reach out to the manufacturer to obtain a price.
Compact Industrial-Grade SLS 3D Printers
When you are printing parts and prototypes for your business, you likely need an industrial-grade SLS 3D printer. While these will have higher price tags, they will provide you with faster printing, access to a greater variety of materials, and better-quality results.
However, these printers don’t have to be huge! Here are some of the top compact options available in 2021:
If you want a scalable 3D printing system that works like an all-in-one solution, look no further than the Sintratec S2. This model is affordably priced at $40,000 and includes everything from a material prep module to a depowdering station.
In other words, this machine makes post-processing a breeze since you have the option to include a polishing station, a blasting station, or a vortex unit. The intuitive touch screen and almost automatic workflows also ensure that the printing process runs smoothly!
Sharebot SnowWhite 2
The SnowWhite 2 by Sharebot is a newer SLS printer. It came out in 2020 and has an upgraded interface to facilitate custom printing profiles and open parameters.
The unique CO2 laser allows you to use thermoplastic powders loaded with other material particles. This capability will ensure that you can create a solid structure with high resistance. Also, any unused powder can be recycled to increase cost savings and efficiency.
Opting for this machine will cost you upwards of $40,000.
XYZPrinting MfgPro230 xS
Next, we have the MfgPro 230 xS by XYZPrinting. It retails for $60,000 and has a substantial build volume of 230 x 230 x 230 mm.
This particular SLS printer is very diverse because it utilizes an open-source system. That means you can use almost any type of powder on the market – including light-colored ones!
For companies that need parts with precise mechanical performance, this 3D printer is a great solution.
The Gravity SLS machine was released by the Swedish manufacturer in 2020 so it is rather new. It emphasizes recycling and simple material handling, plus the packaging is very user-friendly.
This model relies on cloud-based slicing software to optimize the construction area – creating the perfect environment for your industrial 3D printing needs.
You can purchase Gravity by Wematter for $150,000.
ProMaker P1000 X
The ProMaker P1000 X is a versatile machine developed by Prodways in France. They recently announced compatibility with new materials for their dental 3D printers, so this model will work for any business in that industry.
It is priced at $100,000 and has a build volume of 300 x 300 x 360 mm.
EOS Formiga P110
Depending on the object you’re making, you may need to focus on tensile strength, temperature resistance, transparency, or color. The Formiga P110 by EOS is an SLS 3D printer that can handle all of that Without reducing the print quality!
It is a professional 3D printer and priced accordingly at $250,000. However, that price will give you access to a diverse range of materials, detailed prints with high strength, and support for third-party slicing software.
3D Systems ProX SLS 6100
Another compact industrial-grade SLS printer is the ProX SLS 6100. It offers high resolution and edge definition technology to create smooth, clean finishes.
This model also uses automation tools to completely manage material handling and workflows. Choose this option if you’re looking for a printer that can make reduced weight production parts, jigs, and fixtures at rapid speeds.
You will need to contact 3D Systems to obtain a quote and purchase this model.
Nexa3D QLS 350
NXT Factory, the manufacturer of the Nexa3D QLS 350, developed a proprietary process called quantum laser sintering. This involves splitting the laser into millions of microlasers without compromising the powder density – and you can access this technology for approximately $70,000
As a result, this machine lets you manufacture parts almost four times faster than traditional SLS 3D printers. It can reach a speed of 4,200 cubic cm/h! Likewise, it is fully automated, so you can let it operate around the clock.
The eForm model by Farsoon is perfect for users that are new to the industrial 3D printing space.
It has impressive temperature regulation features with continuous monitoring for optimized printing. Similarly, it has a small minimum layer thickness of 0.06 mm. Speed is not an issue for this printer either, with a max volume build rate of 0.8L/h.
Contact the manufacturer to learn more about the pricing for this model.
Shining 3D EP-P3850
Shining 3D is a popular Chinese manufacturer that is known for its advanced technologies. The EP-P3850 SLS printer maximizes manufacturing efficiency while shortening the wait time in between prints.
It is a popular option for companies in the automotive industry since it has a layer thickness between 0.08 and 0.3 mm. This model also has a substantial construction volume of 380 x 380 x 500 mm! You will need to reach out to the company to get a quote since the features will vary based on what you need, but this machine can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000.