There was a bit of discussion at RAPID 2014 surrounding the fact that the major patents that protected selective laser sintering (SLS) were set to expire. Few people actually thought the change would make any real difference in the industry. The words “desktop SLS” were jokingly used. It might seem less funny if some companies’ plans work out.
A Swiss startup called Sintratec is the second company to announce it is busily working on a small business/consumer priced desktop SLS system. In the works for two years, the company is aiming for an October release to the crowd funding scene to raise capital. The first system will be called the Sintra, and is expected to ship at 3999€ ($5,277) for backers as a kit.
Sintratec is only planning for a system that works with plastics or nylons. As of now, available specifications for the new system are:
- Build Envelope: 130 x 130 x 130 mm (5.12 x 5.12 x 5.12 in.)
- Footprint: 500 x 500 x 300 mm (19.69 x 19.69 x 11.81 in.)
- Layer Thickness: Varies with material. Generally between 40 to 80 microns, with a max of around 150 microns
- Print Speed: Approximately 70 mm/s
Even with a small build envelope and limited material options, you might expect the Sintra to be more expensive than most second-hand cars. The laser the drives the SLS process is one area in which the company has found a way to reduce costs. While most SLS systems use an expensive CO2 laser, Sintratec uses a much less expensive diode-based laser. A smaller model allows for a smaller laser.
I wouldn’t expect the backer price to last beyond the crowd funding campaign, either. Even selling the system as a kit to reduce expenses, it would be impossible to generate enough revenue to keep the company afloat at that low a price. In fact, too many backer priced systems have doomed other crowd-funding 3D printers.
It’s also possible that consumers just aren’t interested in a desktop SLS system. Norge Systems is also working on desktop SLS, and attempting to use crowd funding for seed capital. Norge launched its Kickstarter campaign with a £250,000 goal, and has only raised a bit over £30,000 nearly halfway through the drive. Granted, Norge’s desktop system is more expensive, but it comes assembled and is still as reasonably priced a SLS system as anyone could have hoped to encounter.
Below you’ll find a video from Sintratec about its system.