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Rice creates sintering laser from cheap Chinese cutter

by • May 2, 2016 • No Comments

We love a great hack here at 3DPrintingindustry.com, so in these times we’d like to salute the bright minds at Rice University that have created a budget laser sintering printing device of a Chinese CO2 laser cutter. It costs less than $10,000 to manufacture and they created it open source. So you can manufacture one too.

Since Deckard’s patent for stereolithography techniques expired in 2014, the cost of SLS machines has come right down. Before that the kit frequently cost up to $250,000 and they yet costs tens of thousands of dollars. A lack of high-power lasers and effective optics are the real barriers to entry, but by adapting the laser cutter and so Rice University has overcome one of them.

The actual module effectively drops into the laser cutter. It is a bolt-on platform containing the optics so, in theory, it is relatively easy to recreate.


Dr Jordan Miller’s lab for microphysiological research funded this work. It wasn’t a garage-based homebrew by any means and the work took place at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute at Rice.

Benefits of laser sintering

Selective Laser Sintering does come with a number of advantages. It sinters powder on a layer by layer basis, via a series of cross sections in the software file. There is in addition no require for assist structures when printing difficult pieces with a delicate overhang that may otherwise crumble and fail.

There is in addition no limit to the difficultity of the item, as unsintered powder only falls away and does not require to be removed with tools. That is one of the reasons why you can use a vast number of materials. It in addition means you can create satisfactory structures and the team focused on producing models of liver structures.

Nylon, sand, polycaprolactone (PLC) and wax were only a few of the materials testedSo it’s a versatile system and the laser can go up to 80 W, but you can in addition create a 40 W unit and use it at a much lower ability. So this is a versatile machine that is not all of ultimate power.

Subtle differences with laser melting

Selective Laser Sintering differs of Selective Laser Melting in that melting systemes in fact reduce materials to a fully liquid phase, while sintering relies on melting the surface of the particles to effectively weld solid materials together. The laser energy is absorbed depending on the particle shape, dimensions, density and structure, that manufactures it a difficult procedure that largely relies on the high end and consistency of the material powder.

Disadvantages of the system

It does have disadvantages as a system, too. The parts can be porous, the surfaces can be rocky and thermal distortion can be a problem.

Now that this system is on the market at a lower price, yet, additional folks can get their hands on one. Rice University has taken the bold step of producing the hardware open source, so now the whole community can weigh in and assist drive this innovation forward. That may iron out a lot of the problems.

Rice University has issued the warning, yet, that this innovation is exceptionally dangerous. Hacking a laser cutter is fraught with risks, so manufacture certain you understand what you are doing preceding you get the tool kit out.

The next of laser sintering

There are clear benefits with laser sintering, but it only hasn’t been an version due to the high price of entry. Now that has been removed and so we can experiment with the system, resatisfactory it and apply it to new areas.

It is an amazing development, albeit an embryonic one. We can’t wait to see where this one takes us…


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