View Full Version : Just In Cheap Laser Sintering Printers Are Coming Thanks To The Expiration Of A Key Patent!!!

01-28-2014, 06:32 PM
Cheap Laser Sintering Printers Are Coming Thanks To The Expiration Of A Key Patent
Today is a big day for 3D printing: Patent#US5597589 (https://www.google.com/patents/US5597589?dq=5,597,589) is set to expire and will open up the possibility for makers to use laser sintering. Laser sintering is when the 3D Printer shoots a laser at a layer of nylon powder. With this expiration this will allow for cheaper devices, essentially opening the technology to the small maker.

The patent is fairly clear on what exactly sintering is. It describes an “apparatus for selectively sintering a layer of powder to produce a part made from a plurality of sintered layers and the apparatus includes a computer controlling a laser to direct the laser energy onto the powder to produce a sintered mass.” This means anything that shoots a laser at and powder could run afoul of this patent much as Form Labs bumped up against 3D Systems’ (http://techcrunch.com/2012/11/21/3d-systems-sues-3d-printer-company-formlabs-for-patent-infringement-and-kickstarter-for-promotion/) stereolithography patent.

Most larger “professional-quality” printers use laser sintering and you can create homogenous, solid-looking objects with stable structures using the technique.

Does this mean we’ll have sintering printers in our homes next year? Possibly, but given the materials needed and the components involved I could see prices going down but not dropping until mass acceptance of 3D printing becomes the norm. FDM printers that deposit layers of plastic is still the cheapest method but sintered parts are almost seamless, creating a cohesive whole that is very useful in prototyping and engineering. In short, however, it’s a great day for makers.

01-28-2014, 09:01 PM
Talk to me about a cheap high resolution metal printer and I'll buy it. Haven't seen one yet.

01-29-2014, 08:46 AM
The tech to make the power necessary, the raw materials, and the potential safety issues for metal sintering are going to keep it in rarefied and expensive. I would not expect to see this fall under $50k for 10+ years... It is not an IP issue, it is a cost issue and the costs are not easily reduced with readily available technology.

Tom Kay
02-08-2014, 12:56 PM
Anything to reduce SLS cost would be great. We have a 3D Systems Hi-Q Sinter Station at my work, and i"m the user. Wonderful machine, but the Duraform PA nylon powder is about $1050 per 10 Kg box, and even that's down from the $1500 we were paying.

I really like that machine, but I wish it could do aluminum, which is the Holy Grail for me.

Tom, Ottawa Canada.

02-10-2014, 06:53 PM
So why exactly can't you build a 3d printer to heat metal above its melting temperature and then extrude it like plastic?

02-10-2014, 07:55 PM
You could do a metal extruding head. However you'd need to use a metal phase that is thixotropic. Look up thixomolding to get a good idea. That or a way of supercooling just past the nozzle to get the heat out so it'll solidify. Neither is easy or cheap.
Also, not all alloys can be used this way.
Cheapest and easiest is to lay down a wire-fed weld bead and build that way. It's already been done (http://hackaday.com/2013/12/07/a-rostock-welding-3d-printer/).

02-11-2014, 02:50 AM
EOS's cheapest machine, an EOSINT P 110, is currently $250,000 USD. Would I pay that amount with the news of the expiration of the Deckard patent bouncing around the maker community? Nope! Polyamide powder is expensive, but not astronomical. According to EOS, who I've been in discussions with, they tell me that their polyamide powder PA2200 is only $88 USD per kilogram. Also, a quick look around reviled that Chinese and Taiwanese suppliers are grinning from ear to with their own polyamide offerings. I didn't contact them as of yet, but how much do you want to bet that they can do it for cheaper. Makers don't need to abide by service contracts for their open source machines. :D

The real issue here is with the advent of the expiration of this patent and how that has got makers thinking about doing their own version. Trust me when I tell you, an open source SLS printer for polyamide will be available by the end of the year. :)

02-11-2014, 04:27 AM
I agree with the previous speaker... When somone says its impossible - the maker community most always come up with a alternative. Creative minds of economically restricted students are so powerful :D

02-11-2014, 07:32 PM
This is exciting news indeed! If SLS can get down under $10K this year with powder under $100/kg I would buy in!

02-11-2014, 07:35 PM
My first thought was how this would be a game changer depending on the power of the lasers available.

02-11-2014, 07:38 PM
This is very good news!

02-11-2014, 07:44 PM
I think a lot of metals can get a bit wierd between glowing red and vaporizing. Gold, for instance is difficult because it collapses as soon as it gets hot enough to weld... this supposes you can get parent metal and the weld material up to the same temp. The alternate is to get THAT much heat into the weld material that it sticks to whatever it hits. Are we talking about where and how much heat here ?

02-11-2014, 08:00 PM
Aluminum is still the "Holy Grail". I would SO be in. I make car parts as a side job and it would be so much easier to laser sinter instead of removing all that material.


02-11-2014, 10:14 PM
If anything can be learned from history it is that the word impossible has been a great driving force towards innovation. Perhaps when knowledge is truly free innovations will be made available as soon as they are conceived.

02-11-2014, 11:03 PM
I'm trying to build one with a laser and icing sugar - with black toner mixed into make it absorb the light energy and melt.
Kind of like the candyfab3000 but with a laser instead of hot air.
Should make monster sizes possibleas my source material is so cheap. Well thats what I'm hoping.
My current build is 1mx1mx0.5m

03-01-2014, 11:01 AM
I think the issue with SLS machines are a few problems... 1.) the cost of the lasers needed are very expensive. 2.) you need a very advanced thermal system in place to keep the bed of powder at a very accurate temp just below melting 3.) you need to purge the build chamber from high oxygen content 4.) you have to deal with mixing powder and all that messy stuff.. I just don't see how a "home" style SLS printer is going to come about both cheaply and safely.

these guys are on to something but still not a real SLS as lasers are not melting the same type of polyamide powder.
Blueprinter (http://www.blueprinter.dk/)

03-01-2014, 12:20 PM
Wow, Blueprinter! Available to the Middle East.
I don't think people realize that once these markets are more accessible, millions of natural born engineers will be on board.
It's going to happen.

SHS™ and Printer Features
SHS™ technology uses a thermal printhead as opposed to a laser in SLS machines
The thermal printhead applies heat on layers of thermoplastic powder in the build chamber
Free forming of any complex geometry (minimum wall thickness is 1 mm)
Load and print several 3D models
100% web based interface (work with Windows, Mac and Linux)
Removal of excess powder can take place inside the printer or in a separately powder removal station (accessory)

Build chamber (mm): 200 x 160 x 140 (X * Y * Z)
Printing speed: 2-3 mm/hour
Layer thickness: 0.1 mm
File formats: STL
Printer dimensions (cm): 115 x 51 x 57 (W * D * H)

Thermoplastic powder optimized to work with SHS™ Technology
Monocrome white
Unused powder is re-usable
No need for additional support materials - models being build are supported by the powder in the build chamber