3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing

The type of 3D printing technology chosen for a product development project is determined by its final application. Process suitability can change along the design and development stages depending on functional requirements. Laser Sintering (LS), also known as Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is an extremely cost effective 3D printing solution for the production of robust parts using a variety of materials. It is ideal for 3D printed components with complex geometries and parts with internal cavities.

What is Laser Sintering (LS / SLS)?

Laser Sintering (LS) or Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) allows the production of components from 3D CAD data using industrial-grade Nylon. This 3D printing process involves the fusing of nylon particles layer by layer with a high power laser to create a robust, functional part with outstanding mechanical properties.

  • 3D CAD Data is first converted into an STL file and sent to the machine.
  • The powder layer is evenly spread across the build platform.
  • This layer is then melted by the laser as it moves across the machine.
  • The platform is then lowered, so that a new layer of powder can be laid on top of the cured profile.
  • This process is repeated until the build is complete.
  • Once removed and cooled, the individual 3D printed components are broken out of the powder cake, cleaned up and finished as required.

The origins of Laser Sintering dates back to the 1980s, where an undergraduate at The University of Texas at Austin's Mechanical Engineering Department (UT ME) developed the technology that was to become one of the most popular 3D printing technologies in use today.

Laser Sintering is a popular 3D printing process for a large variety of applications across different industries, such as the Automotive, Architectural, Medical, Defence and Security, Industrial products, Consumer products and TV and Film sectors.

Applications for the technology can vary from simple raw SLS models for urgent requirements, right through to full finished rapid prototypes or even tried and tested parts for use in the field.

Benefits of Laser Sintering (LS / SLS)

As with any 3D printing process, a major benefit of Laser Sintering is that it allows the realisation of multiple iterations of a design early in the product development cycle, without any tooling investment. This cost effective customisation and reduced time to market allows more efficient product testing before committing to tooling for higher volume production, ultimately resulting in a better proven product.

Specific benefits of Laser Sintering (LS / SLS)

  • The powder used during the Laser Sintering process is self-supporting, so it eliminates the need for additional structures to be printed as support for overhangs or undercuts within the design.
  • SLS parts offer enhanced accuracy through tighter tolerances for a more reliable final product.
  • Advanced Nylon materials used in Laser Sintering can withstand rigorous testing due to their strength and functionality.
  • Laser sintered parts are consistent, so the repeatability is higher than with some 3D printing processes.
  • The complex, free form designs achievable through this process also have a reduced carbon footprint, as material is selectively “added”, thus minimising waste.

3D Printing for Basic Models

For some engineers, a basic 3D printed model is a sufficient rapid prototype, in order to represent a visual or ergonomic concept for design verification purposes.

While our specialism lies in producing high end functional models, we do realise that sometimes you just need basic parts very quickly.

To cater for this demand, Paragon’s dedicated 3D print department allows the fastest possible turnaround for basic SLS components.

Where alternative suppliers often remove the people from this process, we stand by our personal service. Our friendly 3D print team provides a point of contact for all your questions.

3D Printing for Rapid Prototyping

Moving on from basic models, our strength lies in more complex rapid prototypes. Whether it’s a scale model or functional prototype, our Laser Sintering service provides tough, rapid durable prototypes from a range of materials. Combining our dedicated 3D printing department with more traditional CNC machining, Vacuum Casting and RIM processes.

Paragon offers rapid prototypes that are setting the industry standard. Where other suppliers fall short, we can offer a full finishing, painting and texturing service for a truly customised “Model of Excellence”.

3D Printing for Low Volume Production: Additive Manufacturing

Thanks to significant improvements in 3D printing accuracy, build speed and the progress made with material properties, laser sintered parts can now be used in more accurate functional tests, and even as end products. At this point, the simple 3D printing concept becomes Additive Manufacturing (AM).

Indeed many complex components are now being designed specifically for manufacture through the Laser Sintering 3D printing process.

As with other 3D printing processes, Laser Sintering allows parts to be consolidated for manufacture, in order to reduce a full assembly of components down to just one part. Furthermore, it represents an affordable means of building durable production parts in low quantities.

Paragon’s stringent production processes make us one of few advanced technology providers offering services capable of generating models for low volume production applications.

Production Support – Gauges, Jigs & Fixtures

As a cost effective additive manufacturing process, Laser Sintering offers unique functionality and is becoming more popular for the low volume production of gauges, jigs and fixtures. We can produce a range of customised Nesting Jigs, Alignment jigs, as well as Holding or Assembly Fixtures to support your product development process. Where your manufactured parts need to be measured, inspected or checked against original specification, we can also supply a range of precision gauges, such as Go-No Go Gauges.

Laser Sintering Materials

Laser sintered parts can be produced in either white Nylon 12 PA650 or PA615-GS (Glass Filled Nylon).

3D printing using Nylon means that parts can be sealed and fully finished to improve a model’s fit, function and aesthetics.

As one of the most common materials used in 3D printing, it offers long term stability and delivers the required strength and durability for functional testing.

Our glass filled option offers greater rigidity and higher temperature resistance than standard unfilled Nylon, performing better in demanding applications.

Why Choose Paragon?

Capacity and Fast Turnaround

In response to growing demand, our 3D printing capability has been further enhanced by the installation of a digitally upgraded 2500plus HS HiQ Sinterstation. The high speed Sinterstation is one of the first in the country to be equipped with enhanced digital technology, making it 30-40% faster. Along with our two other 2500 HS HiQ Sinterstations, we can offer a Laser Sintering build platform of up to 330 x 380 x 457mm and our capacity has increased by 50%.

Our superior 3D printing lead times cater for your tighter deadlines, so we can do our best to meet your delivery expectations.

Quality and Investment

As one of Europe’s leading producers of precision high quality laser sintered components and assemblies, quality is paramount. As part of our growth strategy, we have installed a new 3D Scanning FARO Arm in order to maintain our superior product quality through digital verification and allow reverse engineering where required. Furthermore, our Quality Management System is now certified to ISO 9001:2015, underlining our company-wide commitment to delivering superior parts for our customers.

Finishing Expertise

With traditional model making expertise at our core, Paragon adds value through its unparalleled execution of model finishing through its team of fully qualified, time-served model makers. This attention to detail at an early stage ensures high quality levels are achieved every time.

We come highly recommended!

“Working with Paragon has changed the way we do business for the better. I would recommend them wholeheartedly as both a rapid prototyping company and a low volume manufacturer.”

JAMES BROOKS,
PRODUCT DIRECTOR, K2 THERMAL IMAGING

Technical Information

    • 3 x 2500 HS HiQ Sinterstations
      • Max build envelope 330 x 380 x 457mm
        • PA 650 (Standard Nylon)
          • PA 615-GS (Glass Filled Nylon)

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