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  1. #1
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    Cheap Laser Sintering Printers Are Coming Thanks To The Expiration Of A Key Patent!!!

    Cheap Laser Sintering Printers Are Coming Thanks To The Expiration Of A Key Patent


    Today is a big day for 3D printing: Patent#US5597589 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’ 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.


  2. #2
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    Talk to me about a cheap high resolution metal printer and I'll buy it. Haven't seen one yet.

  3. #3
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    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.
    CAD, CAM, Scanning, Modelling, Machining and more. http://www.mcpii.com/3dservices.html

  4. #4
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    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.

  5. #5
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    So why exactly can't you build a 3d printer to heat metal above its melting temperature and then extrude it like plastic?

  6. #6
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    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.

  7. #7
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    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.

    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.
    What will become of the world when 3D printers can print 3D printers?

  8. #8
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    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

  9. #9
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    This is exciting news indeed! If SLS can get down under $10K this year with powder under $100/kg I would buy in!
    REM

  10. #10
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    My first thought was how this would be a game changer depending on the power of the lasers available.

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