What Is A 3D Laser Printer?
There are two different types of 3D laser printers. This includes a Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printer and a Stereolithography (SLA) printer.
This device works by fusing or sintering fine powder and other materials together to create objects. It does this by applying a layer of fine powder over a bed of support materials.
A laser beam then traces the shape of the design, fusing the powder and supporting materials together. The printer then uses a roller to move the newly formed shape to a new bed, exposing it to a different kind of laser beam.
This secondary laser beam removes excess material, leaving the finished product behind. These printer types are effective methods of 3D printing with a primary laser source.
Although these machines are very different from traditional 3D printers, they are often referred to as 3D printers because they are used to produce tangible items, just like other 3D printers.
What Is A Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) Printer?
A selective laser sintering (SLS) printer is a 3D laser printer that uses a laser to fuse fine plastic or resin materials.
The powder is applied to a base material and is then covered with a sacrificial material. A laser then traces the shape of a design before the entire object is covered in a protective shield.
The SLS printer then uses a roller to remove the sacrificial material and the protective shield, leaving a finished product behind. The SLS printer is typically used for industrial applications.
This printer is commonly used for fast printing needs to create on-demand prototypes for custom additive manufacturing needs.
What Is A Stereolithography (SLA) Printer?
A Stereolithography (SLA) is a type of 3D printer that creates solid objects from a digital model by building up successive layers of material.
A stereolithography machine uses an ultraviolet laser to draw patterns on liquid photopolymer resin, which is then cured into solid plastic.
The pattern drawn on the resin determines the shape and form of the finished product, with each layer being drawn in turn until the entire object has been created. They are most often used to make prototypes of parts and models for design work.
How Does A 3D Laser Printer Work?
Like any other type of printer, a 3D laser printer uses a combination of hardware and software to create objects from digital designs.
This hardware includes an ultraviolet light source, a powder hopper, a build plate, and a roller. The source directs ultraviolet light onto the powder to create a pattern on the material.
The build plate holds the powder in place while the light traces it. The roller is used to move the newly formed shape to a new bed, where it is exposed to a different kind of laser beam.
The two primary 3D laser printers worth considering include the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) Printer and Stereolithography (SLA) Printer.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) Printer
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printers are 3D printers that use a laser to fuse particles of polymeric material together, layer by layer, to create a three-dimensional object.
The laser is used to fuse the particles of polymeric material together. The printer starts with a bed of polymeric powder and then coats it with a thin layer of binder, which helps the powder stick together better when it is being fused.
Users can expect some of the most advanced and precise mechanical properties when using an SLS 3D printer.
Stereolithography (SLA) Printer
A standard Stereolithography (SLA) printer contains a liquid photopolymer tank, a build plate inside the tank, an ultraviolet laser, and an integrated computer interface. These four components are all must-haves for the SLA printer to function.
This printer uses 3D CAD designs to format data to send to the printer. Once the object is sent to the printer, the laser begins to slice or draw the initial laser using the liquid resin.
After the first layer, the platform will rise and adjust based on layer thickness and continue to build each layer. Once the processing completes, the platform is completely raised from the resin tank for full UV exposure.
The UV rays will cure the liquid resin and turn it into a solid object. This is an exact process, and the CAD files must be accurate to get the correct results.
Difference Between A 3D Laser Printer & A 3D Printer
While 3D printers use a variety of techniques to create real objects from digital designs, a 3D laser printer is only capable of producing objects from powder materials.
More Versatile Printing Material
3D printers use additive manufacturing to create objects by depositing material in layers according to a digital model. However, the type of printer used will impact the print material compatibility.
A 3D laser printer like an SLS or SLA can use a wider range of materials, including powdered resin, plastic, or metal. Meanwhile, a traditional FDM 3D printer is limited to thermoplastic compatibility.
Higher Resolution & Accuracy
3D laser printers use a laser beam to fuse the material and build up a product layer by layer. This process offers better mechanical properties, high resolution, and the ability to create complex geometries with ease.
These printers are known for their precision, which is why they are so popular in prototyping. They also print faster than an FDM printer.
More Expensive Machine
Both SLA and SLS laser 3D printers are significantly more expensive than traditional 3D printers. They are better used for more industrial requirements, so the cost tends to be higher.
However, they can print faster, and they don’t waste as much material, so there is a level of cost savings during the process.
How Much Does A 3D Laser Printer Cost?
The cost of a 3D laser printer will vary greatly depending on the manufacturer, the size of the printer, and the features that come with it.
As with any other type of technology, the cost of purchasing a 3D laser printer will increase as the technology improves. The cost can be as low as $6,000 for a compact and limited machine or up to $500,000 for a much more advanced industrial 3D laser printer.
The 3D laser printer is a complex piece of equipment that requires a lot of maintenance and attention. It might be worth the investment for anybody working with many small, intricate designs.