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How to Design Parts for SLS 3D Printing: A Simple Guide

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is an industrial 3D printing process, perfect for manufacturing end-use parts. Unlike other Additive Manufacturing processes like FDM and SLA, SLS does not require support structures allowing for great design freedom, which means you have more freedom in designing your parts.

With SLS, you can create plastic parts that work well and are stronger in all directions. That can be used for detailed prototypes or small batches of finished production parts.

To fully utilize the capabilities of this technology, your 3D model must be designed according to many recommendations. In this article, we offer a comprehensive guide to the best design practices for SLS 3D Printing. It covers the characteristics of the process, our capabilities, design guidelines, a summary of best SLS design practices.

SLS 3D Printing Process

In Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), a laser heats and fuses tiny particles of polymer powder together, building the parts layer by layer. The uncentered powder provides support for the part, so support structures are not needed.

First, a little bit of powdered material is heated up. Then, a special blade spreads this powder super thin, like a layer that's just 0.1mm thick, onto a platform. Next, a laser starts moving across this layer, heating up and solidifying specific parts of the powder. Once the entire layer is done, the platform moves down a bit, and the process starts again with another layer of powder on top. This keeps going, layer by layer until the whole thing is finished.
 

The end result? You've got a container filled with powder and solid objects. This method is great for making lots of things at once, and you can arrange the parts in the container to fit in as many as possible. It's a cool way to make stuff without needing extra support for the parts.

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How do you design for SLS printing?

Wall Thickness

For SLS design, to ensure a successful 3D print, minimum thickness should be between 0.8mm (for PA12) and 2.0mm (for carbon-filled polyamide).

Wall Thickness SLS
Hole size

All holes should be larger than 1 mm in diameter.

Hollow Parts

For hollow parts and designs containing blind holes, it is important to include more than one escape hole in your design to improve the ease of powder removal. We recommend a minimum hole diameter of 3.5mm.

Slots

The size of a slot design depends on how thick the wall is. It's best to have a slot size of at least 0.5mm. But, if the wall is thicker than 2mm, a 0.5mm slot won't be enough, and your print might not work.

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SLS 3D printing design Slot
Pins

Creating pins for Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) can be tricky because small pins might break easily after the printing process. To avoid this, the pins need to be at least 0.8mm thick. The taller a pin is, the more likely it is to break, but making the diameter larger can make taller pins stronger.

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Mating Parts

When making parts using SLS, it's important to leave enough space between them so they don't stick together and become one solid piece. To prevent this, make sure there's at least 0.5mm of space between mating parts in your design.

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Large, Flat Surfaces

Creating pins for Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) can be tricky because small pins might break easily after the printing process. To avoid this, the pins need to be at least 0.8mm thick. The taller a pin is, the more likely it is to break, but making the diameter larger can make taller pins stronger.

Embossed Features

Make sure embossed features are designed with a height of at least 1mm, or they might not show up well. To make sure these details stand out nicely, it's best to make them a bit larger than what's suggested.

Engraved Details

An engraved detail is like a little groove carved into a part. When using a laser for SLS (Selective Laser Sintering), the heat can make the surrounding powder melt and cover up any text or engraved designs, making them hard to see. To avoid this, it's important to design engraved details to be at least 1mm deep and 1mm wide, so they stay visible.

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Make sure embossed features are designed with a height of at least 1mm, or they might not show up well. To make sure these details stand out nicely, it's best to make them a bit larger than what's suggested.

Getting Your Designs Printed

First, use the 3D Printing Design Guidelines to help you design your parts for machining. Once you have your designs ready, export them in an STL format. Ready to submit your designs? Go ahead and do so now to receive a FREE quote. Our team of 3d printing experts is always here to help you in every step, ensuring your parts are set for printing. We always provide support and recommendations.

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