We have seen many FDM 3D Printers, a couple of SLA and even a few DLP 3D printers launch on Kickstarter, now the first of the much awaited SLS machines are starting to test the ravenous market for 3D printers.
SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) is the core technology behind our 3D Printed Nylon (white strong & flexible) 3D printing at Shapeways, one of our most popular materials. The SLS process is by far the most versatile as the powder surrounding a sintered part acts as support material, so you can make complex, interlocking parts, with overhanging parts, cantilevers, holes in multiple directions, and hinged parts fully assembled, the excess powder is then brushed and blown away to reveal the part. No nasty support material or structures to deal with. In short, it is an incredibly versatile process.
The process is called Sintering, because the layer of powder is heated up to just below melting point, the laser then follows and melts the powder turning it into a solid, without it going to liquid form first. This helps to control the material warpage and thermal shock so the 3D prints are accurate and strong.
The Ice 1 & Ice 9 by Norge Systems may be the first SLS 3D printer available at a price that is affordable for a small design firm at just over $8,000 USD at current exchange rates for the smaller Ice 1 on Kickstarter which has a Build volume: 200x200x250 mm Layer thickness: 0.1 – 0.15mm. Not Shabby. The Ice 9 promises a Build volume: 300x300x450 mm at a price point closer to $35,000 USD.
To temper excitement, (oh, and I am VERY excited) the units are proposed to ship in December 2015 which is quite a wait if you have dropped $8,000 as a backer, coupled with the tendency for hardware on Kickstarter to ship late. The video shows the printer in action, but does not show the printed part as traced by the laser, they do show a different 3D printed part being pulled from the powder so perhaps the machine is not quite fully functional yet.
If you have the cash and patience I would really love to see this unit hit the market so please do support this project and the designers behind it. Meanwhile there seems to be another play flirting with the desktop (ok, maybe a little big for your actual desk) market with an eerily similar logo to Norge. The videos by Sintratec look to be a little further on in the machine development.
Keep your eyes peeled, either way, the SLS market is going to change, maybe not in the exact same way as the FDM 3D printer market, but it will change.