Basics of SLS for Prototyping

An SLS prototype is a kind of prototype made using a 3D printing technology known as selective laser sintering. This rapid prototyping technology and method is recommended and widely used for the manufacture of 3D parts that have unique geometries, complex shapes, dimensions, and/or specifications. Selective laser sintering is an additive manufacturing method that makes an extensive range of shapes and sizes possible. It also offers a wide selection of finishing options to suit different product requirements, not to mention quick turnaround, which makes SLS prototyping ideal for various applications and projects.


In selective laser sintering, a laser is used to sinter plastic material (usually powdered plastic) into a solid structure or shape, based on a 3D design or model. SLS prototype technologies have dramatically evolved over the years, making it a popular choice for product developers and engineers. In addition to quick turnarounds and the ability to produce complex shapes and geometries, SLS prototyping offers a long list of benefits, including low cost per part and high productivity levels. SLS machines can also accommodate various types of already established prototyping materials, making the technology an ideal choice for all kinds of applications, ranging from small-batch/low-volume bridge manufacturing to functional prototyping.


Selective laser sintering was among the first AM (additive manufacturing) methodologies developed in the mid-eighties. The original method engineered by doctors Carl Deckard and Joe Beaman has since been adapted to develop even more advanced technologies capable of working with a range of different materials, including composites, plastics, and even metals, ceramics, and glass. These technologies are collectively referred to as powder bed fusion technologies, which make use of processes in which thermal energy selectively sinters or fuses together different regions or layers of a powder bed.  Today, there are two widely used powder bed fusion technologies and systems, known as plastic-based, SLS and metal-based DMLS (direct metal laser sintering. Selective laser melting is another term commonly used to refer to similar technologies.


An SLS prototype is created using SLS 3D printers that make use of high-power laser in order to fuse together small polymer powder particles, according to a 3D model or design. These printers fuse particles together to create a solid part.

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