Benchtop and Low-cost SLS

Ever since the original patent expired in February 2014, the SLS (aka the plastic powder bed fusion), 3D printer market has been in for an overhaul: the emergence of Benchtop SLS 3d printing.

“Benchtop SLS” means that large industrial machines – that once used to have to be in warehouses and labs – are now small enough and affordable enough that they can sit atop a shop or garage workbench. Not enough that they can be on a desktop (but almost no 3D printer really is yet) but enough that an unprecedented number of people can now access this technology.

The Benchtop SLS shift may not be as disruptive as what happened in the stereolithography and filament extrusion but it is going to be big and the first sings of change are clearly showing now.

Formlabs, the company that almost single handedly disrupted the SLA (laser stereolithography) market announced a sub-$15,000 prices system called the Fuse1 which should be ready by the end of 2018. However the current market leader is a small Polish company called Sinterit, that has optimized its system (originally introduced in 2014) to the point where it’s now quite reliable and prices around $5,000.

A Race to the Bottom?

Other companies are partaking in the new Benchtop and Low-cost SLS 3D printer race. Some are emerging from the bottom-up, such as Sharebot, Sintratec and now a new Spanish company called Natural Robotica.

Others are tackling the issue from the top up. For example Prodways, by introducing its P1000 ($100,000 system), or XYZprinting, with a new SLS system priced around $60,000.

This is still a lot less than the current lowest priced and top selling SLS 3D printer: the EOS Formiga P110, priced at around 200,000. And the Chinese 3D printer makers are also preparing to invade the global markets, with Farsoon and Shining 3D leading the pack.

While the onslaught of low-cost FDM and SLA/DLP 3D printers has caused disruption in the industry and troubles to current market leaders, no one can deny that their effect has been extremely beneficial for expanding the AM industry as a whole. Will the same happen with SLS?

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