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Laser sintering machine for high performance plastics

18 December 2008

The first plastic laser sintering machine in the world capable of producing components from high performance polymer powders at temperatures up to 385ºC has been launched by EOS. Called EOSINT P 800, it is available through the German manufacturer’s UK subsidiary in Warwick.

Such polymers, which exhibit high stiffness, tensile strength and chemical resistance, are especially suited to aerospace, motorsport and medical applications where properties such as flame retardancy, biocompatibility and sterilisability are important.

The new EOS polymer powder, PEEK HP3, a material from the polyaryl ether ketone family, is the first to be introduced for processing in the high temperature system.

Produced in accordance with ISO 9001, the polymer has a tensile strength of up to 95 MPa and a Young’s modulus of up to 4400 MPa, values approaching double those attained by the PA 12 and PA 11 polyamides currently available. Components made from the material can be operated continuously at temperatures between 180ºC and 260ºC, depending on application, and fire retardancy conforms to UL 94-V0.

Exact physical replicas of a CAD model are created by cutting it horizontally into fine slices, typically 0.12mm thick, and building the components layer by layer in the P 800’s sealed, nitrogen-filled chamber. Two 50W CO2 lasers fuse the powder where plastic is required. The remaining, unfused powder falls away as the completed part is removed.

The machine is based on the existing EOSINT P 730, but new modules have been added - such as the process chamber and exchangeable frame. Heating and cooling have been parameterised due to the larger temperature range to be bridged. There is the option of online laser power control, which measures in real time the output power of the lasers and can also effect closed loop control.

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