Formlabs Announces a Desktop SLS 3D Printer

Formlabs have just announced the Fuse 1 — a selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printer that creates parts out of nylon. Formlabs is best known for their Form series of resin-based SLA 3D printers, and this represents a very different direction.

SLS printers, which use a laser to sinter together models out of a powder-based material, are not new but have so far remained the domain of Serious Commercial Use. To our knowledge, this is the first time an actual SLS printer is being made available to the prosumer market. At just under 10k USD it’s definitely the upper end of the prosumer market, but it’s certainly cheaper than the alternatives.

The announcement is pretty light on details, but they are reserving units for a $1000 deposit. A few things we can throw in about the benefits of SLS: it’s powder which is nicer to clean up than resin printers, and parts should not require any kind of curing. The process also requires no support material as the uncured powder will support any layers being cured above it. The Fuse 1’s build chamber is 165 x 165 x 320 mm, and can be packed full of parts to make full use of the volume.

In the past we saw a detailed teardown of the Form 2 which revealed excellent workmanship and attention to detail. Let’s hope the same remains true of Formlabs’ newest offering.

29 thoughts on “Formlabs Announces a Desktop SLS 3D Printer

    1. “Starting at” that price too. Give it a little time and the price should come down though, as other manufacturers enter the market (resin based SLA printers are now down to around $500, compared to the Form 1 launch price on Kickstarter of around $2500).

      1. $500? I’m still seeing most be north of $1,000 and those are kits that still require a DLP projector to be added to the cost. There’s some kickstarters trying for less than a grand, but we can’t call those real until and unless they actually ship.

    2. Average joe, sure. Average maker? For the 20-something software engineers in San Francisco, etc dropping $10k on something like this isn’t outrageous, especially if it’s split between a few folks at a shared maker space.

      So there’s a market…in the “Other America”.

      1. It’s not feasible for students on a tight budget. A rich and or well established maker could probably find an industrial one second hand, or build one him/herself.

        1. It just dosn’t fill a niche. What is does do however, is get people excited about a (kinda) new printing technology. If it gets a lot of press, competitors will pop up with cheaper clones of lower quality and less features, but then the technology will be in the hands of the people to make and hack and improve. So is the circle of tecnological progression.

  1. Im curious about the cost of consumables.
    Maybe its possible to build your own machine but with all these sla or sls its the materials that are hard to come by.

    1. I wonder the same thing. I assume the gain size of the material needs to be tightly controlled to ensure the correct cohesion (I’m thinking surface area of the grain is one of the numbers in the equation that determines beam intensity and exposure duration).

    2. I’m curious about that, too.

      Somewhat related to that, their spec sheet does say something about being able to use 50% recycled powder (I don’t know if that means that powder tends to be 50% re-usable, or whether you can get away with a 50-50 mix of fresh and old, or something else.)

      They made an interesting point in their announcement that from a printing-things-for-money perspective, the real cost isn’t the materials or even the cost of the equipment; the #1 thing is the cost of needing someone to take care of the care and feeding of the printing process, including any pre- or post-processing. Other than busting the parts out and brushing them off, the parts from SLS don’t need any post processing.

  2. $10000 is the laser module put out enough power that it could burn eyes with 1 quick flash say into the cockpit of aircraft making it so dangerous that most of the $10000 goes into a license saying that the laser module will not be used as a high power laser pointer?

    1. You can buy a 100W CO2 laser tube for $500 and buy a completely uncertified driver from China for a little over $150. Throw in an aquarium pump or, if you’re feeling fancy, buy some PC cooling components and someone with supervillain aspirations is looking at plenty of change from a grand to spend on their (presumably sequinned) costume

    1. I speculate that the build chamber is heated to facilitate fusing of the material. The startup time might be required for consistent and precise oven temperature.

      Apparently the build material is nylon 12. It’d be interesting to know if their material stock is just an off-the-shelf industrial nylon powder coating.

  3. Just glanced over the specs. Their special sauce is definitely their own software stack to drive the laser. As far as the laser/optics are concerned it is just a 10w fiber laser, possibly of the MOPA variety. The 2000 mm/sec scanning speed and 1064nm wavelength are a dead giveaway.

    If someone wanted to develop their own software and powder bed, lasers with galvo head and f theta lenses can be found ~$3k.

  4. The 50 micron dust is in the range of pollen and human cells. You need serious protection for your lungs and the environment for one of these. Prep your rebreather.

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