Plastic 3D Printing

From Prototype to Production

How Does Plastic 3D Printing Work?

3D printing plastic is one of the fastest and most cost efficient methods available for the iterative design, prototyping, and production of custom parts. Rather than material being removed from a stock, as historically done with manufacturing processes such as CNC machining, 3D printing works by repeatedly layering small amounts of plastic to build a design from the ground up. This is done by providing the 3D printer with a three dimensional digital design file, commonly referred to as a computer aided design (CAD) file. Once you have a CAD file for your design, there are a number of different 3D plastic printing methods that can be used to create your parts, such as fused deposition modeling (FDM) and selective laser sintering (SLS).

Plastic 3D Printing

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Applications

Concept Models

The speed and versatility of SLS lets product developers create physical snapshots of their designs through the iterative process.

Rapid Prototyping

SLS can be used to create fully-functional prototypes, complete with moving parts, as well as all-in-one assemblies.

Direct Digital Manufacturing

The high accuracy and consistency of SLS makes it an ideal way to build large quantities of discrete or customized parts.

Advantages

Precision

We use the latest generation of 3D printing technologies to meet tolerances of +/- 0.005” or +/- 0.002” per inch for SLS and +/- 0.004" or +/- 0.002" per inch for FDM, whichever is greater. Please see our Manufacturing Standards for more details.

Durability

SLS nylon is a durable material with great impact strength, medium flexibility, and high resistance to environmental factors, while FDM printed parts are available in a variety of high-performance plastics for applications that require resistance to the elements.

Scalability

SLS can make a single part or component as easily as dozens of production pieces, while FDM is capable of producing end-use parts on-demand, increasing your throughput.

Complex Geometry

Geometries can be built more easily due to the 3D printing process, adding complexity without additional cost.

Rapid Turnaround

Parts can typically be shipped in 3-4 days, allowing for faster design iterations and speed to market.

Materials

Plastics

  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
  • Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate (ASA)
  • Glass-Filled Nylon
  • Nylon
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polyetherimide (PEI) [Ultem]
  • Polyphenylsulfone (PPSF)

Finishes

Standard

SLS parts are de-powdered with a sand blasting process, followed by detailed manual de-powdering for more complex geometries. These parts are left with a surface finish comparable to a sugar cube. FDM parts are built with support material that is removed during post processing, leaving the surfaces with fine layer lines.

Media Tumbled

SLS parts go through the standard de-powdering process and are then media tumbled for several hours. These parts will have reduced grow lines and sharp edges may be softened by the tumbling process. The parts are left with an eggshell finish.

Additional Finishes

Xometry provides additional SLS & FDM finishing options, including but not limited to: color dyeing, sanding, painting and plating to meet your needs. For examples of our additional finishes, please refer to our Online Photo Gallery.

 Design Guide

Design Guide

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a plastic additive manufacturing process that can efficiently produce durable nylon end-use parts and prototypes.

Learn how you can apply SLS to your next project. Download your free guide today.

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