Laser sintering is an additive manufacturing technology with which components can be built in a materials layering process on the basis of digital 3D design data. The term “3D printing” is being used more and more as a synonym for it. Laser sintering is, however, unlike classic 3D printing, a professional manufacturing method that produces extremely accurate, mechanically highly robust, series-compatible components.
The process differs significantly from conventional erosive manufacturing methods. Instead of, for example, milling a workpiece out of a solid block of material or producing a component by injection or moulding, the additive method builds parts layer by layer out of finely powdered material. Different metals, plastics and composites are available in this form.
With this production method, a thin layer of powdered material is spread onto the build platform.
A high-power laser melts the powder at the exact points defined by the computer-generated part design data. The build platform then descends by one layer thickness, depending on the material between 40 and 150 µm. The next layer of powder is applied. The material is melted and fuses itself to the layer below at the predefined points. Since the parts are built up layer by layer, laser sintering makes it possible to produce inner structures, undercuts and different, overlapping components in one job run.
This is what makes laser sintering an economical manufacturing process, offering the freedom of design that other production methods cannot match.