One Maker has set out to build the cheapest SLS printer on the market.
In recent years, there have been plenty of FDM and SLA printers to emerge on crowdfunding sites, and rightfully so. Given their ease-of-use and affordability, these desktop machines have become the go-to choice for Makers looking to 3D print a project. Though, as great as they may be, users often encounter a number of limitations when it comes to creating overhangs greater than 45 degrees, altering a design on a whim and adding support material.
Meanwhile, selective laser sintering (or SLS) is in a league of its own when it comes to yielding high-quality, high-definition results. These machines avoid the extrusion process entirely, and instead, construct objects by selectively solidifying very fine powder materials of nylon, layer by layer, using a laser. Unfortunately, as incredible as these devices may be, the cheapest SLS printer on the market today is in the ballpark of $180,000.
That was until now. 18-year-old Maker Lukas Hoppe has set out to introduce an SLS 3D printer that packs all of the key elements of those industrial-grade machines without the astronomical price tag. What’s more, it will also be open-source and feature a heated build chamber.
Hoppe admits that he only got into 3D printing about a year ago, but immediately became an advocate of the Atmel driven RepRap movement yet was always tempted by more pricier 3D printers. This got him to thinking: What if there was a way that would combine the open-source principles of a RepRap with the professional quality of SLS devices? And so, the $2,000 You-SLS 3D Printer was born.
As expected, the machine is based on the highly-popular tandem of an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and a RAMPS 1.4 board, along with Marlin firmware. However, controlling a SLS machine is a bit more complex than commanding a conventional FDM printer, and so, Hoppe employed another Arduino to drive the recoater. The rest of the You-SLS consists of commonly available parts that make constructing as simple and inexpensive as possible.
What really sets this gadget apart from other SLS printers is its X-Y gantry system, as hardware and software for those systems is readily accessible.
“I decided that it would be best to stick with the Cartesian X-Y system, as the software is hassle free, it allows the use of a standard RAMPS board, which again is very common with open source printers, and the hardware is available all over the world from different suppliers at a low cost,” the Maker adds.
The DIY system will employ a three-way heating system: each of two pistons will be equipped with two 300W heating cartridges and the build chamber will be heated by two optical heaters with independent temperature feedback controls. The laser sintering system itself will revolve around a laser-diode with 2W of power at a wavelength of 445nm.
In order to cool the various lasers, stepper motors and electronic components, the Maker notes that his design moves the lasers outside the hot environment by creating two parts: a lower segment, which contains the two pistons and a recoater, and the upper segment that holds the XY-stage and the laser diode. This way, the hot and the cold parts of the machine are separated.
The You-SLS printer’s outer dimensions are 90cm x 50cm x 55cm, which will make it a welcomed addition to any Makerspace workbench. And with a print bed of about 20cm x 15cm x 10cm in size, this allows larger parts to be printed diagonally and for jet small parts to be created without using too much powder to fill the bed.
Sound like something you’d like? Hurry over to Hoppe’s official Indiegogo page, where the Maker has already surpassed his $1,100 goal.