3D Printer Hardware3D Printing ProcessesSinter-based

Unlocking new levels of precision with EOS’ Fine Detail Resolution (FDR)

EOS’ latest polymer technology offers the durability and scalability of SLS and the precision and high-resolution of SLA.

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German AM specialist EOS first revealed it had developed a new approach to selective laser sintering (SLS) back in 2019. At the time, we remember learning about the new technology, called Fine Detail Resolution (FDR), which made the exciting promise of offering “the detailed resolution of stereolithography with the durability and quality of selective laser sintering.” A few years on, and EOS’ FDR technology is now established on the market in the FORMIGA P 110 FDR system, and it is very much delivering on those promises.

What FDR offers

EOS’ FDR technology isn’t a million miles away from SLS: both technologies utilize lasers to fuse powder particles of polymer powder, building up parts layer by layer. Where FDR sets itself apart is in the use of CO lasers (as opposed to CO2 lasers, which are the common option for SLS platforms). CO lasers are capable of generating ultra-thin beams of about 200 µm, which EOS points out is about “half the size of what’s seen in SLS 3D printers.” This smaller laser size has an immediate impact on what users can achieve in their prints, particularly when it comes to fine details, thin walls and small features like lettering and microelectric connectors.

The CO laser is only a part of the FDR equation (albeit a big one), the technology also relies on a highly precise recoater, which distributes fine layers of powder rapidly (at a rate of 600 mm/s) and with even density. The combination of the CO laser and the recoating system have resulted in a dimensional accuracy of +/- 40µm, comparable to that of injection molding and SLA 3D printing. 

EOS FDR prints

On top of that are all the benefits typically associated with laser powder bed fusion processes, such as supportless builds (since the powder bed functions as a support). This significantly simplifies post-processing for FDR prints, as well as streamlines the design process and reduces material waste. In short, parts are ready for use after cooling and depowdering, though additional post-processes like coatings and vapor smoothing are possible. 

Like SLS, FDR is also well equipped for production volumes thanks to its rapid sintering, minimal post-processing and the ability to nest multiple parts in a single build. This is where the technology offers a distinct edge over resolution-matching resin technologies. As EOS says: “The 3D printing methods that can match FDR for detail resolution, like SLA and DLP, can’t approximate its production volume: This is due in large part to the slow build processes of these resin-based methods, which the relatively quick laser sintering of FDR can easily outpace.”

FDR on the market

End users can leverage Fine Detail Resolution technology by adopting the FORMIGA P 110 FDR 3D printer, a compact industrial system specialized in the production of small, fine-detail parts. The machine has a build volume of 200 x 250 x 330 mm and integrates two 50 W lasers each with a wavelength of  5 um. These ultra-fine lasers generate a focus diameter of 200 µm, which enables the creation of walls and features of that size—EOS reports this is about half the size of other SLS 3D printing capabilities.

Formiga P 110 FDR 3D printer

To date, EOS has qualified a polyamide 11 (PA 11) powder for use on the FORMIGA P 110 FDR 3D printer, which is characterized by a smaller grain size than standard SLS powders. The nylon material is highly versatile, offering a combination of high impact resistance, high elongation at break, durability and chemical resistance. On top of these mechanical properties, the material is both recyclable and made from a renewable resource (castor beans, which are typically grown on land not fit for food crops). The printer’s recoater can distribute this PA 11 powder on the print bed at a layer thickness of 40 µm. According to EOS, other materials are still being developed for its FDR solution.

The 3D printer is also designed for seamless integration into manufacturing facilities and shop floors thanks to its relatively small footprint (1320 x 1067 x 2204 mm) and workflow software. According to EOS, the system has performed remarkably well in terms of reliability, overcoming issues typically associated with achieving such a fine print resolution on powder-based platforms.

Applications for FDR

With “fine detail” in the name, it’s no surprise that EOS’ FDR technology is ideally suited for the production of small components with tiny features and intricate details. In general terms, the LPBF technology can be applied across virtually any industry for applications like electronics components and housings, fine filigree structures like filters, and multi-part assemblies.

In a recent webinar, EOS AM expert Sebastian Frank highlights some specific applications where FDR can be a game changer, such as high-frequency antennae and microwave components. The design freedom and feature size unlocked by FDR printing make it possible to produce thin-walled parts that can operate at frequencies in the range of 100 GHz. For these types of applications, it is possible to apply a galvanic coating to the PA 11 prints to give them the necessary conductive properties. This capability is ideal for high-frequency applications, including radar systems, autonomous driving components, communication systems and more.

EOS FDR Bike light housing

The technology has also been successfully used in the production of multi-component assemblies that benefit from high precision and dimensional accuracy. For example, the FORMIGA P 110 FDR successfully printed a customized bicycle light housing made from two parts that fit together perfectly using a cantilever snap fit. Other connecting features that require high precision, like non-assembly hinges, film hinges, screws and threads, and interlocking components can also be printed (even at a miniature scale) using EOS’ FDR technology.

The specific properties of PA 11 also open up certain applications for FDR. For instance, the material is biocompatible and can thus be used for medical applications, like fluid guides, and for parts that come into contact with food. PA 11 is also low-friction, which in combination with the high-quality surface finishes of FDR prints allows for components like bearing balls and planetary gears for electric drives to be printed. Additionally, tiny features like embossed or debossed lettering can also be integrated seamlessly in the original CAD design. FDR can also have important applications in design fields for the production of jewelry with intricate details and even polymer-based textiles for wearables. 

Ultimately, EOS’ Fine Detail Resolution technology has brought something new to the table by combining ultra-fine printing capabilities with the efficiency and scalability of SLS. To learn more about FDR and specifically about designing for the high-precision process, consult EOS’ FDR DfAM eGuide.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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