A commercial CO2 laser cutting system has been modified by bioengineers at Rice University in Houston, Texas. It creates OpenSLS, an open-source selective laser sintering system platform that can print difficult 3D objects from powdered plastics and biomaterials. OpenSLS allows researchers to work with their own powdered materials.
Commercial SLS platforms do not allow users to fabricate objects with their own powdered materials, says study co-author Jordan Miller, an assistant bioengineering professor at Rice University. Fabricating objects using their own materials are essential to researchers who want to experiment with biomaterials for biomedical applications and regenerative medicine.
Open SLS creates objects by squeezing melted plastic through a needle while they trace out 2D patterns. This means it works differently than traditional extrusion-based 3D printers. 3D objects are then built up from succeeding 2D layers in most commercial SLS platforms. OpenSLS on the other hand, shines down onto a bed of plastic powder. It melts or sinters the powder at the laser’s focal point to form a solid material in a small volume. The printer can fabricate a single layer of the final part by tracing the laser in two dimensions.
Meanwhile, solid-state and fiber lasers are the mainstays for micromachining applications. The EWAG Laser Line Precision is a compact laser production center for diamond tools. It is a system for unmanned multi-shift operation. Only laser technologies have the ability to machine hard, wear-resistant and high-thermal conductive diamond tool inserts.
Machine builders developed mechanical platforms that have the ability to to deliver accuracies in the micron range. The latest generation of machines includes cameras, laser scanners and probes that ensure in-process controls. The Rollomatic LaserSmart500 machining center automatically creates CVD diamond tools.
An innovative hybrid solution that integrates additive manufacturing into a five-axis milling machine is now found in the DMG MOI LASERTECH 65 3D. It provides good flexibility for the micromachining of small batches of precision parts. Until now, 3D printers were sued by additive technologies to generate prototypes or small parts.