Formlabs Expands Additive Manufacturing Attain with Fuse 1 SLS Printer

While many industries were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, additive manufacturing kept getting hotter – evidence of its value as it helped deliver critical personal protective equipment (PPE) and allowed tight supply chains to flex without to break. Now, Formlabs, known for its Form line of desktop stereolithography (SLA) printers, wants to play a bigger role as it announced today the availability of its SLS (Fuse 1) industrial selective laser sintering printer. Fuse 1, which has been in development for almost seven years, represents a remarkable change for Formlabs as it is being expanded into a new additive manufacturing process.

Formlabs announced the availability of its Fuse 1 SLS desktop 3D printer and Fuse Sift post-processing system. (Provided by Formlabs)

To support the new printer and provide users with an end-to-end SLS workflow, the company has also launched Fuse Sift, a post-processing system for Fuse 1, and Nylon 12 Powder. Nylon 12 is the first powder material for Fuse 1, but Formlabs has determined that nylon 11 will be available soon while a flexible TPU and other materials are in development.

SLS has long been known for its ability to print strong, functional parts. However, the high cost and complex workflow has limited the size of the companies that can benefit from it. Formlabs enhances SLS with Fuse 1 and Fuse Sift and is accessible to all businesses through affordability and ease of use.

“The Form 1 redefined stereolithographic printing (SLA) for the additive manufacturing industry 10 years ago, and now the Fuse 1 offers the same level of reliability and accessibility that Formlabs customers expect from industrial 3D printing,” said Max Lobovsky, CEO and co-founder of Formlabs. “SLS 3D printing should not only be intended for those with a large budget, but must be accessible so that all companies – from startups to large manufacturers – can benefit from the freedom of design and the high productivity of SLS 3D printing.”

The nitty gritty

With a machine size of 64.5 x 68.5 x 107 cm (25.4 x 27 x 42 “), Fuse 1 offers users a build volume of 16.5 x 16.5 x 30 cm (6.5 x 6.5 x 11.8 “) and uses a modular build chamber compatible with Fuse 1 and Fuse Sift. The ytterbium fiber 10W laser offers a laser spot size (FWHM) of 200 µm (0.0079 “) and can produce a layer thickness of 110 µm (0.004”). According to Formlabs, the fuse 1 cooldowns allow users to use a second detachable build chamber and start printing 1-2 hours after the previous print is complete.

Formlabs bills its Fuse Sift as an all-in-one powder recovery station that combines part extraction, powder recovery, storage and mixing in a single device. Measuring just 1.0 x 0.6 x 1.9 m (39 x 24 x 61.8 “), Fuse Sift automatically dispenses and mixes used and new powder to reduce waste and add to the user’s powder feed A vacuum system keeps the powder inside and allows open access and easy cleaning.

Users can reduce downtime thanks to the modular build chamber, transferring build chambers and powder cartridges between fuse 1 and safety screen for an uninterrupted, cyclical workflow, the company said. Formlabs includes a range of finishing tools with the Fuse Sift that users can use to effortlessly remove excess powder from parts, including a large brush, two small brushes, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, a vacuum brush tool, and a vacuum splitting tool.

The company states that nylon 12 offers high tensile strength, ductility, and environmental stability, making it suitable for making complex assemblies and durable parts with minimal water absorption.

According to Formlabs, the nylon 12 powder offers a tensile strength of 50 MPa with a tensile modulus of 1,850 MPa. The elongation at break is 11 percent on the X / Y axis and six percent on the Z axis. According to the company, nylon 12 offers a flexural strength of 66 MPa and a flexural modulus of 1,600 MPa.

Samples printed with nylon 12 powder were assessed according to ISO 10993-1: 2018 and have met the requirements for the following biocompatibility risks: EN ISO 10993-5: 2009; ISO 10993-10: 2010 / (R) 2014; and ISO 10993-10: 2010 / (R) 2014.

Formlabs-Fuse-1-Sample-Parts_1920x1080.jpgFormlabs Nylon 12 powder offers high tensile strength, ductility, and environmental stability, making it ideal for making complex assemblies and durable parts with minimal water absorption. (Provided by Formlabs)

The Fuse 1’s hopper can hold 8.5 kg of nylon 12 and offers a material update rate of 30 to 50 percent. This means that according to Formlabs, up to 70 percent of the powder can be recycled indefinitely. The Fuse Sift’s sieve filters out particles that should be re-mixed with new powder and reused in future prints.

Look behind the curtain

Using patent-pending Surface Armor technology, the Fuse 1 creates a semi-sintered shell that prints around the surface of the part, protects the part during the printing process, and according to the company, enables great surface finish, high reliability, and high frame rates.

Surface Armor was developed after Formlabs found that low energy density parts showed no signs of rough surface texture. The company found that if they treated the edges of the printed part with very little energy they could keep the majority of the printed part at full energy density and maintain its mechanical properties while using low energy density on the edges to help create the formation from birch bark to prevent.

Formlabs’ PreForm prepress enables users to import STL or OBJ part files, align and arrange models, estimate print times, monitor printers, and upload job files. The part packaging algorithms can automatically place multiple models in one build, enabling more effective prints. A touchscreen display provides a live stream of the print bed and the camera view is also available from a computer via PreForm, so users can monitor their printing without leaving their desks. The company’s cloud-based dashboard platform also allows users to track printers, teams and supplies from anywhere.

Formlabs-Fuse-1-Open_1920x1920.jpgThe Formlabs Fuse 1 Benchtop SLS 3D printer uses a modular build chamber. (Provided by Formlabs)

Not only will the Fuse 1 help Formlabs expand its own presence in the industrial 3D printing space, but the company believes it will significantly expand the overall industrial 3D printing market size by creating an entirely new one Set of companies really offering production-ready 3D printing to customers. According to Formlabs, the complete end-to-end SLS printing system simplifies the guesswork and challenges of creating strong, functional parts while minimizing costs and relieving many companies of their reliance on expensive and slow outside solutions.

“We previously used an outsourced injection molding workflow to deliver prosthetic fingers to young and old patients and help them improve mobility and functionality. However, this process was extremely slow and did not allow the personalization required for each patient, “said Matthew Mikosz, Founder of Partial Hand Solutions and beta user of Fuse 1.” With Fuse 1 we have the freedom of design required to create our prostheses really adapt, as well as the high productivity and throughput required to get this solution to our patients quickly. “

From the idea to the machine

Invented in the 1980s, SLA was the first 3D printing process that uses a laser to cure liquid resin into hardened plastic in a process known as photopolymerization. Of all the technologies used to manufacture plastic additives, it offers users the highest resolution and accuracy as well as the smoothest surface. Just as machining isn’t best for all forms of traditional metal fabrication, SLA has its areas of shine and its own limits.

In March 2014, Formlabs wondered if the company could do something to make SLS, a process that uses a high-powered laser to fuse small particles of polymer powder into the final part, more easily. The company notes that the cheapest commercial SLS 3D printer on the market right now costs around $ 200,000, and prices can range from $ 800,000 to $ 1,000,000.

Formlabs is available now, starting at $ 18,499 for the printer or $ 31,845 for the full setup, including the Fuse Sift. With Fuse 1, users can take control of their entire product development process – from iteration of the initial concept design to finished manufacturing. Use products made from production-ready nylon.