Melting Plastic Powder Together, One Layer At A Time


Here’s an interesting development in the world of 3D printers: A rapid prototyping machine that melts plastic powder together to create objects with extremely good resolution

The Blueprinter works by drawing a 0.1 mm thick layer of plastic powder over the build platform. After that, a very hot needle-shaped probe melts the plastic together. This process continues at a rate of 10mm an hour on the z axis, and a very precise plastic model eventually appears in the powder.

There is no price ( or solid release date ) for the Blueprinter, but this article from earlier this year tells us the price for the machine will be €9,995, with a material cost of €49 per kg. Pricey, yes, but seeing as how the RepRap community already has the techniques behind melting plastic down pat, it might now be too hard to build your own plastic sintering printer.

If you know of any current projects or builds that are trying to emulate this plastic powder melting technique, drop us a note on the tip line. We’d love to see a version of this printer up and running. Until then, you can check out the render showing a rendered Blueprinter in action, along with a demo of a plastic clip printed on this sintering printer.


23 thoughts on “Melting Plastic Powder Together, One Layer At A Time

    1. EOS, 3d Systems and others make laser based versions of this. They require a vacuum and other higher cost items but they also produce great items and can do glass filled nylon, etc. This is a poor man’s 3d printer – just another reprap basically. Until I see otherwise, it is a low quality “me too” machine – but not the way you should go about doing things if you want to make actual parts with any tolerances worth mentioning.

      1. Not that a machine like this doesn’t have it’s place but Repraps are so basic and low resolution they can’t really be considered true 3d printers for many practical uses that requires any kind of resolution. You have to start somewhere though and slow but able to make something (for cheap) has it’s place…… I guess.

    1. Just for reference I do 0.2mm layers when I want to be quick about it. When I want it to look a bit more fancy I go down to 0.1mm internal layers with 0.05mm outer layers.

      1. What sort of setup are you running? Make/model, nozzle size, speeds? My go-to seems to be .3mm with a .5mm nozzle, but I just got my first printer up and running a couple weeks ago.

      2. Apparently I have to reply to myself instead of the person I want to reply to… Commenting system is broken.

        Anyway, I’m running a mostly stock Ultimaker with a 0.4mm nozzle. As for speeds, that differs wildly from print to print, anything from 50 to say 110 or so. It can go quicker but that means more noise and worse quality, I’m in no rush.

  1. Maybe if you had a laser >1W with a few mirrors to direct the beam. Pointing down onto the bottom of a box. You then would sprinkle in a very thin even layer (maybe spray) of the heat hardening powder. With each layer of powder the laser would make one pass of the layer for the design.
    The layers would melt and fuse together. No more needle. And the size can be increased (:

  2. I tried this manually without the moving platform with no success. Heat sources were a thin soldering iron tip, nichrome wire, and a burning laser. I found 2 problems:

    1. To get a high res you need a tiny powder particle size, but being so small it burns and turns into carbon even when I was attempting to heat it just on melting temperature.

    2. Shrinkage. If you do manage to melt a thin layer of plastic powder, the loose particles are less densely packed than when they are melted together and no longer spaced out. So when you melt a layer it creates a hole in that place next time you put another plastic layer over the top.

    Anyone have any suggestions how this guys have overcome these issues?

  3. isn’t that how all commercial 3d printing is done?!

    what’s with hacker news nowadays? does redbull lowers IQ?

    just looking at the shapeways videos, this is exactly how their printers works.

    1. Nope, this technique used on other materials, often with lasers to sinter metal powers, or by spraying an adhesive into gypsum powder or something. Melting plastic this way is “new”. But I seriously doubt the practicality and the value of doing it this way over “hot tip extruder deposition” or SLS

  4. I guess the biggest benefit here over a reprap is that you don’t need support material. You could print a hollow box with 90 degree edges with no problems (apart from getting the excess powder out that is :))

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