Laser Sintering (also known as Selective Laser Sintering, SLS, or LS) is an additive manufacturing process that builds parts by using a laser to selectively sinter (heat and fuse) a powdered material.
The process begins with a 3D CAD file, which is mathematically sliced into 2D cross sections. With the build piston at the top of the build volume, a roller assembly pushes build material from the powder supply to create a uniform layer over the build piston.
The scanning system then draws the 2D cross section on the surface of the build material, sintering the material. The build piston is lowered as the powder delivery piston is raised and a new layer of material is placed in the build volume. The next 2D cross section is drawn and the process repeats itself until the object is complete.
This layer-by-layer manufacturing process allows for the direct fabrication of complex parts that would be cost prohibitive, if not impossible, to produce through traditional manufacturing processes. For example, interior features, undercuts and negative draft are not an issue for LS fabrication.
The primary benefit of LS production is that very complex shapes can be produced without tooling in a very short period of time. The primary limitation is that as production volume increases, other production methods are usually more cost effective.
Since Laser Sintering is an additive manufacturing process that does not involve tooling, the benefits of the process increase as the complexity of the design increases.
This runs counter to traditional manufacturing processes where additional design complexity usually involves greatly increased time and expense.
While the LS process has been used effectively as a prototyping tool for years, recent advancements in materials and process control have resulted in the fabrication of parts that are suitable for many production applications.
Get specifics about design considerations for Laser Sintering by downloading our design guide.