Subscribe to Make Magazine Today!

Additive rapid prototyping in plastic materials is becoming quite accessible to home and hobby users. If you’re a hobbyist on a typical budget wanting to rapid prototype in metal, however, you’re limited to subtractive methods, i.e. CNC machine tools like mills and lathes, and even those are not exactly “cheap.” Professional 3D printing services like Shapeways offer additive metal prototyping in metals like stainless steel and gold, but it’s extremely expensive. The technology their 3D printers use, called “laser sintering,” is fundamentally different from the RepRap-type fused-filament (“robot hot glue gun”) 3D printers at the “garage” end of the pricing scale.

In selective laser sintering (SLS), the object is built up in a bed of powder by a scanning laser beam that fuses tiny bits of the powder together, one layer at a time. After each layer of the model is fused, a fresh, thin, uniform sheet of powder is swept over the bed for printing the next layer.

Swarthmore College engineering student Andreas Bastian has developed a low-cost, open-source laser sintering printer design. It uses an IR laser diode on a bed of powder made from a mixture of wax and carbon, and produces fused wax models, which can then be duplicated in metal, for instance aluminum, using a traditional lost-wax casting process. I have written before about a similar process that uses a CNC hot-wire cutter to make Styrofoam models that can then be “metallized” via lost-foam casting, but that, too, is a subtractive process, and limits the possible shapes of the model in ways that the additive SLS process does not. [via Hack a Day]

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


  • http://www.cartridgesave.co.uk/ Cartridge Save James

    It’s not exactly a direct laser to metal model, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s certainly a big advancement.

  • http://bloomdigit.shikshik.org/2012/05/13/laser-sinter/ Laser sinter | Bloomdigit

    […] MAKE | An Open Source Laser Sintering 3D Printer […]

  • http://www.thesymbiosisproject.org/2013/04/26/336/ The Symbiosis Project » Blog Archive

    […] decomposition, etc) and use them to drive ecosystems that met all of the needs of the community. Open-source laser sintering 3D printers that could print in metal, glass, ceramic, plastic, and graphene became widely available, allowing […]

  • http://thepeoplespdx.com/the-future-belongs-to-those-who-tell-a-better-story-by-sam-smith/ The future belongs to those who tell a better story – by Sam Smith | the people's republic of portland

    […] decomposition, etc) and use them to drive ecosystems that met all of the needs of the community. Open-source laser sintering 3D printers that could print in metal, glass, ceramic, plastic, and graphene became widely available, allowing […]

  • http://www.homebuiltairplanes.com/forums/aircraft-design-aerodynamics-new-technology/15384-3d-printed-wing-ribs-we-almost-there.html#post171420 3D Printed Wing Ribs – Are We Almost There?

    […] currently no consumer-grade 3d printers that print in metal. However, I did just stumble on this; MAKE | An Open Source Laser Sintering 3D Printer I can see 3d printers currently used in aircraft to create interior body panels, molds, joysticks, […]

  • http://www.webpronews.com/youre-going-to-see-cheaper-3d-printers-in-2014-2013-07 You’re Going To See Cheaper 3D Printers In 2014 | WebProNews

    […] if you’re in the mood to try your hand at making your own SLS 3D printer, check out this open source guide from Make […]

  • http://newsprovide.com/?p=8976 You’re Going To See Cheaper 3D Printers In 2014 – News Provide

    […] if you’re in the mood to try your hand at making your own SLS 3D printer, check out this open source guide from Make […]

  • http://www.jeremyridesbikes.com/2013/07/3d-printed-track-bike-yes-yes-yes/ 3D printed track bike? yes yes yes | Hello my name is Jeremy, and I ride bikes.

    […] Dudecraft posted some pics and info on the 3D printed lugged track bike.  I am just amazed at the amount of detail that went into this bike.  It truly would be a great bike to have.  When i first heard of 3D printing, this is exactly what I thought I’d want to produce.  Nice to see those thoughts in real life.  Can’t wait to eventually get a metal 3D printer (SLS, selective laser sintering) […]

  • http://impresiontresde.com/blog/abaratamiento_impresion3dmetal/ Impresiontresde.com – El abaratamiento de la impresión 3D en metal

    […] que indicar, sin embargo, que el software incluido para su uso es propietario, y que la sinterización láser de bajo coste y código abierto todavía está en una fase temprana de su desarrollo. Recientemente, un estudiante de ingeniería […]

  • http://fabberwocky.com/what-is-selective-laser-sintering/ What is Selective Laser Sintering? » Fabberwocky

    […] Bastian, an engineering student at Swarthmore College, recently developed a low-cost SLS printer that creates wax and carbon […]

  • http://chaunqiwiu.cartiershueiowsdgeventyjp.org/ コート グレー

    チャン ルー 店舗 コート グレー http://chaunqiwiu.cartiershueiowsdgeventyjp.org/

  • http://activismodemercado.com/las-secciones-del-circulo-tercera-parte-opensource-hacking-activism/ Activismo de Mercado – Las secciones del círculo, tercera parte: OpenSource / Hacking Activism.

    […] cuyo coste y prestaciones mejoran a velocidad de vértigo porque ya no están capturados, en todos los materiales y sectores. ¿Obliga esto a innovar? Claro. Como debe […]

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Supplies at Maker Shed