Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Power in speed and strength in parts: it’s not hype. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), a subcategory of powder bed fusion, is one of the oldest and most respected forms of 3D printing.

The SLS Process

The SLS process in 3D printing begins as thin layers of polymer powder are dispersed over the build platform. A computer-controlled CO2 laser traces the cross-section of the 3D design on the powder. It then scans each layer, fusing them all together at a high temperature, just under the melting point, until the 3D printed structure is complete.

SLS industrial 3D printers can range in build volume size; for example, smaller printers may have a build volume of 200 mm x 250 mm x 330 mm, but printers from EOS can range in build volume from 650 mm x 350 mm x 550 mm to 700 mm x 380 mm x 580 mm, with a layer thickness of 100 to 120 microns. Thousands of parts may be included in one build, boasting higher accuracy and repeatability than most techniques.

The Appeal of Selective Laser Sintering Technology

SLS 3D printing remains as the standout technology for manufacturing high-performance parts, even over some of the other original and quite powerful methods like Stereolithography (SLA).

Questions regarding the differences between SLS and SLA 3D printing are common. Mainly, the differences are that SLS is powder-based and tends to be more powerful overall, capable of producing parts on a larger scale, with a greater variety of materials available. SLA 3D printing is resin-based and often preferred for 3D printing objects with more precision, and intricate details.

An excellent choice for manufacturing complex structures with moving or interlocking parts, SLS 3D printing is extremely appealing to designers, engineers, and industrial companies of all sizes.

At Shapeways, this technology has revealed itself to be a popular and versatile choice for customers designing and 3D printing products like delicate luxury jewelry, custom architectural designs, and even robotic arm components.

Hitting the Highlights in SLS 3D Printing

Manufacture unique structures at scale with SLS 3D Printing

Eliminate Support Structures

A great by-product of powder-bed fusion is unsintered powder surrounding and stabilizing parts during printing, acting as a natural support. In re-using powder while also preserving material integrity, Shapeways contributes to increased sustainability in manufacturing, lessening environmental impact.

Manufacture unique structures at scale with SLS 3D Printing

Manufacture Unique Structures

One of the most important aspects of SLS 3D printing is that the technology allows for the manufacturing of structures that were previously impossible via traditional methods, leaving the doors wide open for users to innovate like never before, and in a wide range of applications.

3D Print on the Large Scale

SLS 3D printing can be performed on any scale, allowing for the production of hundreds or even thousands of parts at once. This is due to the industrial advantage known as ‘nesting,’ the practice of strategically fitting large numbers into each build, saving significant time and expense.

Selective Laser Sintering Technology Materials & Applications

Shapeways customers choose SLS 3D printing because they need solid prototypes or functional end-use parts with stable mechanical qualities. Currently though, all the available SLS materials from Shapeways offer both flexibility and stiffness as required for varying structures. Some of the same materials may be suitable for applications like medicine or automotive parts too, with selection usually based on requirements for color, biocompatibility, stiffness, interlocking parts or gears, and varying types of resistance or absorption.

Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic]

Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic] is a strong polyamide relied on worldwide for industrial products. This material truly lives up to its name, setting it apart from other materials due to its ability to act flexible for thinner structures and moving mechanical parts, but also rugged and stiff for substantial, end-use parts in applications like jewelry, architectural designs and home decor, fixtures, and prosthetics.
Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic] is also porous enough to allow for dyeing, with a wide range of colors available for parts and prototypes. 


Explore the design guidelines for Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic]

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is a rubber-like material (available in white) that offers impact resistance and durability, and also works well for 3D printing of some interlocking parts. Made for elastic, end-use products, TPU is used for important applications like:

  • Automotive
  • Medical
  • Robotics
  • Footwear
  • Sports equipment


Explore the design guidelines for TPU

Nylon 11 [PA11(SLS)]

Nylon 11 [PA11(SLS)] is a robust white polyamide offering great tensile strength, durability, impact resistance, and flexibility. Due to its biocompatibility, Nylon 11 [PA11(SLS)] is uniquely suited for manufacturing the following:

  • Exterior medical devices
  • Automotive parts
  • Sports equipment
  • Loaded functional prototypes
  • Hinges


Explore the design guidelines for Nylon 11 [PA11 (SLS)]

Delegating 3D Printing to Shapeways Saves Time & Capital

For the Shapeways customer, ordering and manufacturing is as easy as uploading one or more 3D designs, requesting instant quotes, checking for printability, and then waiting for parts to be manufactured—whether on an average, priority, or rush basis.

If you are printing 10 or more of the same part in one order, feel free to reach out to our sales team for the possibility of a discount by filling out this form.

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