Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a pivotal technology in the world of additive manufacturing. As a leading player in both additive and traditional manufacturing, UPTIVE leverages SLS to provide high-quality, durable, and intricate parts for various applications.

This article explores what SLS is, its applications, typical materials used, and the advantages and considerations of employing this technology.

What is Selective Laser Sintering?

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a high-powered laser to fuse small particles of polymer powder into a solid structure. Unlike other 3D printing methods, SLS does not require support structures because the powder bed itself acts as a support for the part being produced.

The process involves spreading a thin layer of powder onto the build platform, which is then selectively sintered by the laser according to the digital design. This layer-by-layer approach continues until the entire object is formed.

Applications of SLS

SLS is renowned for its versatility and is used across various industries due to its ability to produce complex geometries and functional prototypes. Some of the key applications include:

  1. Prototyping: SLS is ideal for creating functional prototypes that need to endure mechanical testing and harsh environments. The strength and durability of SLS parts make them suitable for real-world applications.
  2. Automotive: The automotive industry benefits from SLS for producing lightweight and durable components such as housings, brackets, and ducts. The ability to create complex shapes without tooling makes it perfect for custom parts and small production runs.
  3. Medical Devices: SLS is used to produce custom-fit prosthetics, orthotics, and surgical guides. The precision and biocompatibility of SLS materials make it a popular choice for medical applications.
  4. Aerospace: The aerospace industry uses SLS for producing lightweight parts that can withstand high stresses and temperatures. Components such as ducting, brackets, and housings are commonly manufactured using SLS.
  5. Consumer Goods: SLS is also used in the production of consumer goods, including eyewear, footwear, and sporting equipment. The ability to produce intricate designs and custom products makes SLS a valuable tool in this sector.

Typical Materials for SLS

The success of SLS largely depends on the materials used. Common materials for SLS include:

  1. Nylon (Polyamide): Nylon is the most widely used material in SLS due to its excellent mechanical properties, including strength, flexibility, and resistance to impact and chemicals. Variants such as Nylon 12 and Nylon 11 are popular choices.
  2. Glass-Filled Nylon: This material is a composite of nylon and glass fibers, offering enhanced stiffness and heat resistance. It is used in applications requiring additional mechanical strength.
  3. Alumide: A blend of nylon and aluminum powder, alumide provides a metallic appearance and increased rigidity, making it suitable for aesthetic parts and those requiring improved thermal conductivity.
  4. TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane): TPU is a flexible, rubber-like material used for producing parts that require elasticity and impact resistance, such as gaskets, seals, and footwear components.
  5. Polypropylene: Known for its chemical resistance and flexibility, polypropylene is used in applications requiring durable and resistant parts, such as automotive components and living hinges.
SLS printed part made from Nylon PA 12

Advantages of SLS

SLS offers numerous advantages that make it a preferred choice for many applications:

  1. Design Freedom: SLS enables the creation of complex geometries that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods. This freedom allows for innovative designs and optimization of parts for performance and weight.
  2. No Need for Support Structures: Unlike other 3D printing methods, SLS does not require support structures. The unsintered powder acts as a support, reducing the need for post-processing and material waste.
  3. Material Properties: SLS produces parts with excellent mechanical properties, including high strength, durability, and thermal resistance. This makes SLS parts suitable for functional and end-use applications.
  4. Speed and Efficiency: SLS is a relatively fast process, especially for producing multiple parts simultaneously. The ability to stack parts within the build volume maximizes the efficiency of production.
  5. Customization: SLS is ideal for producing custom parts and low-volume production runs. The absence of tooling and molds means that each part can be uniquely designed and manufactured without additional costs.
SLS printed part

Considerations for SLS

While SLS offers many benefits, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Surface Finish: SLS parts typically have a rough surface finish due to the powder-based process. Additional post-processing, such as sanding or polishing, may be required for applications where a smooth surface is essential.
  2. Material Cost: The cost of SLS materials can be higher than those used in other additive manufacturing processes. However, the material properties and the ability to produce complex parts often justify the expense.
  3. Build Size Limitations: The size of parts that can be produced with SLS is limited by the build volume of the machine. For larger parts, it may be necessary to print in sections and assemble them afterward.
  4. Powder Handling: The use of fine powder in SLS requires careful handling and safety precautions to avoid inhalation and contamination. Proper ventilation and personal protective equipment are essential.
  5. Warpage and Shrinkage: During the cooling process, SLS parts may experience warpage or shrinkage. Designing with these factors in mind and optimizing printing parameters can mitigate these issues.


Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a powerful additive manufacturing technology that offers significant advantages for producing high-quality, complex, and durable parts. At UPTIVE, we harness the capabilities of SLS to deliver innovative solutions across various industries, from automotive to medical devices. By understanding the applications, materials, and considerations of SLS, we provide our clients with tailored manufacturing solutions that meet their specific needs and drive their success.

Explore the potential of SLS with UPTIVE and discover how we can enhance your manufacturing processes. Visit our website here to learn more about our services and capabilities.

Ready to start your next SLS project? Get started here! Not sure if SLS is the right process for you? We’ll help you figure it out. Request a consultation here.