Plastic Additive Manufacturing (AM) using Selective Laser Sintering

3T's Plastic Additive Manufacturing facility

3T’s Plastic Additive Manufacturing facility

Plastic Additive Manufacturing (AM) – also referred to as 3D Printing - produces parts suitable for both prototyping and production applications using Selective Laser Sintering. The process generates extremely accurate models and one-off prototype parts for design approval, trial and testing purposes, through to production components to be used in true working environments.

Parts are built directly from 3D CAD data thereby removing the potential for translation errors or misinterpretation of the design, which can be an issue with other traditional modelmaking techniques. The data is sliced into layers, loaded onto the AM machine and a computer-directed CO2 heat laser fuses, or sinters, layers of Nylon powder together. After each solidified layer, another layer of powder is deposited and again sintered until the part is complete. Once the build chamber has cooled, the component is removed with any ‘unsintered’ or loose material being recycled for future use, making it an economical and environmentally friendly process.

The powder surrounding the part acts as a support during the build process, thereby removing the need for any additional support structures to be incorporated into the design. Parts can be ‘nested’ together in the build chamber making it more cost-effective as multiple parts can be built together. And the ‘selective’ nature of the laser enables complex geometries to be achieved that simply couldn’t be made using any other manufacturing methods, without compromising on functionality.

Plastic AM can be used across a vast number of industry sectors, and some examples of current applications are Aerospace, AutomotiveDefenceMedicalArchitecturalConsumer and Luxury Goods.

Watch our plastic AM video to be taken through the process step by step:-

(There is no sound with this video)

Plastic AM Materials

We supply our plastic AM parts in Nylon 12 and Glass-Filled Nylon 12.

Nylon 12 is by far the most common material used in plastic AM, parts have good long term stability, offering resistance to most chemicals. Complexity is irrelevant. Delivers the impact strength and durability required for functional testing. Tensile and flexural strength combine to make tough prototypes, with the flex associated with many production thermoplastics..

Glass Filled Nylon 12 provides greater rigidity, perfect when prototyping rigid parts intended for production in advanced engineered thermoplastics, and is the right choice for functional testing. Form, fit and functional testing can now be completed without sacrifice. The filler is glass bead and not fibre; part predominantly increases in stiffness but not strength.

Further information is in our Plastic AM Material specifications section.

Plastic AM Machines

Our machines are produced by EOS GmbH and include some of the most technologically advanced and largest plastic AM machines available on the market. We have the ideal balance of hardware to meet our customers’ needs whether that be for larger parts, fine detailed parts and a fast turn-round of their order.

We use our P730 machines to produce larger parts as they have a build chamber of 700x380x580mm which reduces the need for joints and post-assembly, as well as increasing their functionality. These and the smaller P380s and P395 are more likely to be used for rapid turn-round or more detailed parts.

Further information is in our Plastic AM Machine Specifications section.

Plastic AM Finishes

Our skilled model makers ensure every last detail is taken care of, offering a range of finishing options from the application of a single colour to a fully painted exhibition standard finish.  With an in-house Vibro Polishing machine, together with our ability to provide plated parts or include mechanical components, inserts or screw threads, we can produce models that are comparable to the final manufactured item.

Further information is in our Plastic AM Finishes section.