Modified Laser Cutter Prints Intricate 3D Objects from Powder


Rice University bioengineering researchers have modified a commercial-grade CO2 laser cutter to create OpenSLS, an open-source, selective laser sintering platform that can print complex 3D objects from powdered plastics and biomaterials. The system costs at least 40 times less than its commercial counterparts and allows researchers to work with their own specialized powdered materials. OpenSLS, which was built using low-cost, open-source microcontrollers, cost less than $10,000 to build; commercial SLS platforms typically start around $400,000 and can cost up to $1 million. Commercial SLS machines generally don't allow users to fabricate objects with their own powdered materials, which is something that's particularly important for researchers who want to experiment with biomaterials for regenerative medicine and other biomedical applications. The machine can print a series of intricate objects from both nylon powder - a commonly used material for high-resolution 3D sintering - and from polycaprolactone, a nontoxic polymer that's commonly used to make templates for studies on engineered bone.