In the last few years, a number of exciting new technologies have emerged in the growing market of 3D printing industry.
One of the most game changing technologies was invented by Neil Hopkinson at the University of Loughborough in the early 2000s; combining the advantages of two existing additive processes: selective laser sintering and binder jetting, resulting in the “High Speed Sintering”.
The High Speed Sintering process works by depositing a fine layer of powder onto the surface on to a heated building platform. An inkjet printhead then moves over the entire surface of the platform and moistens the areas of the construction site with infrared (IR) light-absorbing ink, in the preselected area on which the prototype is to be produced outlining the desired shape and then the building platform is then irradiated with infrared light. The wetted areas absorb the heat, which sinters the powder layer underneath causing only the printed areas to sinter. This process is repeated layer by layer until the build is complete. However, the unprinted powder remains loose.
When the object is finished, a reasonable time has to pass for it to cool down and un-sintered powder is then removed to reveal the final product.
The printhead has a resolution of 360 dpi achieved through 3000 individually controllable nozzles. In combination with a minimum layer thickness, the resolution of the print head enables the production of structures with wall thicknesses of up to 0.15 mm.
Parts can be produced using a wide range of polymers from elastomers to engineering grade polyamides. The process requires no support structure and features as small as 0.5 mm.