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Best SLM 3D Printer – The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide in 2020

Printers based on SLM technology have an impression to cost more than printers based on other technologies. Manufacturers worldwide have been trying to make a breakthrough to manufacture low-cost printers based on this technology.

This is to make the technology available to small business owners. Overall, the technology is known to generate intricate parts and functional prototypes with utmost precision.

That is also one of the reasons why it is favored mainly by industrialists. We have divided the article into two categories a) under $10,000 b) under $50,000 and have given three best SLM 3D printer options in each.

Such categorization is done to help readers easily take their decision when planning to buy an SLM 3D printer. So, let’s have a look at the categories.

Best SLM 3D printers under $10,000

There was a time when this category wasn’t possible. This was when SLM 3D printers weren’t available at such a low price.

Efforts made by companies such as Sinterit and Formlabs should be appreciated for developing 3D printers in this range. Let’s look at those inventions.

Sinterit Lisa

Sinterit Lisa 3d printer

Packed with incredibly advanced technology, Sinterit Lisa is a desktop printer starting at $6990. Lisa is not only low in price than its competitors but also is a plug and play 3D printer.

Sinterit Lisa is manufactured by a company based in Poland. This printer was invented to increase the use of SLM technology in smaller markets.

The Polish 3D manufacturer has targeted small to medium-sized businesses by this printer. One can produce functional prototypes as well as parts using Sinterit Lisa.

Although Sinterit Lisa is compact and inexpensive for SLM 3D printing, it is a professional level machine. The printer needs no external support.

One can nest multiple parts in a single powder bed which makes this technology more efficient than FDM or SLA. This machine offers a minimum layer thickness of up to 0.075mm and has an accuracy of the XY axis in the range of 0.05mm.

The build volume offered by Sinterit Lisa is 150 mm * 200 mm * 150 mm. This 3D printer includes a touchscreen that is 4 inches long as well as, the printer has wifi connectivity and comes with a camera.

Currently, the printer offers two non-toxic powders i.e. PA 12 and Flexa Black. Sinterit Lisa includes all the tools that one needs to start the printing and the team of manufacturers has also offered training and installation.

PROS:
  • Sinterit Lisa is extremely cheap in comparison to its competitors in the SLM 3D printer market.
  • Thought being a desktop printer, Sinterit Lisa delivers industrial-grade performance.
  • The printer is able to generate high-resolution prints even with movable parts and complex shapes.
  • The software that this printer comes with is user-friendly.
  • The printer is capable of producing functional prototypes as well as parts.

CONS:
  • The setup time and print time are lengths compared to its competitors.
  • The printer has a relatively limited build area.
  • Sinterit Lisa requires a fair amount of preparation and cleaning when printing continuously.
  • Handling of powder required inside the printer can get difficult and complicated sometimes.

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Formlabs Fuse 1

Formlabs Fuse 1

Sinterit Lisa was built to compete with this 3D printer who took the market of SLM 3D printing to a roll. By shocking the market of SLM 3D printing with 20 times a low price than the cheapest SLM 3D printers available in the market at that time, Fuse 1’s price was $9,999.

Fuse 1 is about the size of a mini-fridge that has a build chamber of 165 mm * 165 mm * 320 mm. This 3D printer offers a resolution of 100 microns.

Fuse 1 comes with an on-board camera that can be used to monitor the complete printing process. It also has a large touch screen at the top from which the complete process can be operated and controlled according to the need.

Connection via wi-fi or Ethernet is available in the PreForm software that comes with the machine.

The company claims to cool the cartridge after the print in half time than taken by its competitors. The prints that come out of Fuse 1 are high in quality and accuracy.

PROS:
  • The printer still remains a breakthrough printer for all the small businesses that want to manufacture using SLM 3D printing.
  • The accuracy level of industrial printing can be achieved by using this printer.
  • The print resolution is very high.
  • This printer has wide range of applications in the field of aerospace, dentistry, jewelry, and many more.
  • The printer is very safe in operation.

CONS:
  • The parts that are unused should be dumped out of the build chamber along with loose powder that acts as support. Doing this takes a lot of time.
  • With SLM printing the post-processing is always a mess and this printer is no different.
  • The material with which printing can be down using this printer is expensive.
  • Extra caution is needed in the transport of powders used in this operation because they are volatile in nature.

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Sintratec Kit

Sintratec Kit

Being a build-it-yourself printer, Sintratec Kit can be your go-to printer if you are trying to cut costs on your 3D printer purchase. Because it is an SLM 3D printer priced at $5,350, it adds on to the reasons why one should purchase this printer.

Sintratec Kit was released in 2014 by Sintratec as the first SLM 3D printer manufactured by the company. This printer offers a build volume of 100 mm * 100 mm* 100 mm and a minimum layer height of 50 microns.

The printer is usually preferred by professionals who are looking for producing complex geometries at a high resolution. The materials which can be used in production with this 3D printer are PA 12 and TPU.

PROS:
  • One does not need to support the powder bed with any external material. This is because the unused powder makes it up for the support required by the material.
  • Very complex functional prototypes as well as parts can be made easily using this printer.
  • An object within object type of 3D printing which is known as nesting is also possible to produce using this printer.
  • Even that powder which has not been used can be used again while doing 3D printing, which reduces the overall waste caused by this printer.

CONS:
  • The printer’s kit takes four days to assemble and install itself.
  • The materials produced by this 3D printer are porous and generally have granular like surfaces.
  • Because all the materials used for 3D printing using this printer are expensive, they need to be taken special care of.

Best SLM 3D printers under $50,000

Generally, this category is favored by industrialists who then offer services of custom 3D printing. Because of the accuracy that is produced using 3D printers of this range, it is possible to produce some of the most intricate parts that additive manufacturing has ever seen.

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Sintratec S1

Sintratec S1

Sintratec is a company that has proved itself as one of the top manufacturers of SLM 3D printers. Based in Switzerland, the manufacturer specializes in producing laser-based additive manufacturing.

As Sintratec has produced Sintratec Kit before this printer, it has learned from the limitations that the former had to go-through and implemented the learning on this one.

Because of this, Sintratec S1 offers improved functionality and high-quality functional prototypes as well as parts. This is irrespective of the complex design the 3D printing has.

The setup that this 3D printer provides allows users to stack multiple objects across the same build area. This optimizes the overall efficiency and workflow that the 3D printer has to go through.

Because of the printer’s huge build volume, it is able to produce parts that have built a volume of 130 mm * 130 mm * 180 mm.

Another specialty of this machine is that it uses galvanometers to control the complete printing process. This feature in-turn increases the overall speed of the complete printing process enabling users to manufacture quickly.

PROS:
  • High precision is guaranteed with a quick speed printing process.
  • The printer is able to produce complex parts that are not easier to manufacture in printers available in the same price range.
  • The manufactures of these printers have collaborated with experts to make sure monitoring of the printing process is done in the most unique and precise way.
  • Sintratec S1 offers a sense of stability while printing.

CONS:
  • Printing materials used for printing by this printer are highly expensive and difficult to deal with.
  • The software which comes with this printer is difficult to understand for newbies.

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Sharebot Snow White

Sharebot Snow White

Whilst other SLM based 3D printers utilize laser diode, Sharebot utilizes a CO2 based laser diode. By replacing the usual diode, the manufacturers have increased the number of materials with which products can be done.

The list of materials includes PA 12, PA 11, TPU, and other charged powders that come with additives like glass, carbon fiber, and aluminum.

Mainly targeted towards universities, schools, and small businesses, Sharebot Snow White is compact and intentionally kept easy to use. This printer is priced at $40,000 and can produce a build volume of 100 mm * 100 mm * 100 mm.

The ability to print using thermoplastic powders makes this 3D printer stand out in the list of its competitors.

Mechanically superior functional prototypes and parts can be made using this 3D printer. The minimum layer thickness produced by this 3D printer is 0.05mm and the print speed is 35mm/hour.

PROS:
  • The ability of this printer to generate generic materials is amazing.
  • The printer can produce intricate parts and functional prototypes with utmost precision and ease.
  • Sharebot does not require any support material.

CONS:
  • The price of PA12 powder ranges from $55 to $180.
  • Extra caution is required to handle materials by which 3D printing is done.
  • Like other SLM 3D printers, this one too has a broader dimension. They are benchtop, that demands their own space.

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Natural Robotics VIT

Natural Robotics VIT

The VIT SLM printer has a speed of 20mm/hour and a Z-axis resolution of 0.05mm. This printer by Natural Robotics has a standalone capacity and does not require any PC for its operation.

It comes with a 7-inch touchscreen interface. One can connect to it using USB, wi-fi, and Ethernet. Natural Robotics is known in the field of additive manufacturing to establish benchmark printers that operate on various technologies.

The manufacturer claims that this 3D printer is capable of producing products of build volume 250 mm * 250 mm * 300 mm. VIT comes with strong technical and maintenance support that ensures the long life of this 3D printer.

The hardware part of SLM 3D printers which are not yet much-taken care of is been a center of attention by Natural Robotics. Natural Robotics is a Barcelona based manufacturer that has priced this 3D printer at $12,900.

PROS:
  • The printer produces excellent quality print in less amount of time.
  • VIT by Natural Robotics produces parts of huge build volume when compared to its competitors.
  • The printer is gifted to the user with strong support from the technical team by the manufacturer.
  • It is easy to assemble and operate.

CONS:
  • There are questions about the stability of this printer during the printing process.
  • Because it is based on SLM 3D printing, the print materials required for printing are very expensive.
  • Less preferred for small businesses that cannot afford to spend more on print materials.
  • Post-processing takes more time than compared to printers in the same price range but based on different technology.

The Conclusion

Whether you are a designer or a newbie looking to explore options available in the SLM 3D printer, this article will definitely help you in a lot of ways.

There is still a lot of scopes out there in the market as far as this technology is concerned. If you are newbie, you’ll get to experiment a lot as the technology brings with itself a box full of surprises.

And if you are already a designer and have worked with other technologies before, it’ll help hone your skills further with bigger challenges. So, best of luck with your experimentation in additive manufacturing. Keep generating.

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