Claymore - SLS 3D printer using polymer clay

SLS 3D printer using paste material (polymer clay) instead of powder for home use.

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This is a project to develop a safer and easier alternative to powder-based Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) or Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) 3D printers, to make SLS available for home use.
The key idea is the use of polymer clay (paste-like material that can be sintered in an oven) instead of powder.
Because paste does not fly in the air, common risks associated with powder-based SLS, namely inhalation and explosion, can be circumvented.


Powder-based 3D printers, called Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) or Powder Bed Fusion (PBF), have several advantages compared to other types.
For example, SLS-printed objects have little layer lines and exhibits isotropic strength, compared to filament-based (Fused Deposition Modeling, FDM) printers.
Also, they do not use harmful chemicals such as allergenic resins or intoxicating solvents, unlike resin-based printers.
And the most importantly, SLS printers can print overhangs without supports, because the prints are supported by powder that does not flow.

However, current SLS printers are limited to industrial use and not available for home or office use.
This is probably because of the troublesome natures of powder materials.
Firstly, combustible powders (such as plastics) are explosive.
Secondly, because powders scattered in the air can be easily inhaled by people, it poses health risks, such as lung damage.

Idea: Paste Bed Fusion (PaBF)

Is it possible to avoid the aforementioned problems of powders, and make SLS usable in non-industrial environment?

My solution is to use polymer clay instead of powders.
Polymer clay, such as Fimo and Sculpey, is a clay-like craft material that can be baked in cooking oven.
Because it is composed of thermoplastic (polyvinyl chloride, PVC) powder dissolved in liquid plasticizer, it might be used as an alternative to Nylon powders in SLS 3D printing.
While it has similarity to powder materials, it is significantly safer because polymer clay does not fly in the air and therefore free from explosion or inhalation risks.
Also, plasticizers used in current polymer clay products are not the harmful phthalates, according to manufactures (sources: Fimo webpage, Sculpey FAQ).


This project received the second prize (with prize money) in the 1st Marutsu DigiKey Student Idea Contest (See announcement from Marutsu in Japanese).

  • Laser marking test

    Satoshi Tanaka03/16/2024 at 06:47 0 comments

    Kinematic system

    Recently (early March 2024), I built the kinematic system to move the laser head and the print bed.

    The laser moves in X (left-right) axis, and the bed moves in Y (forward-backward) and Z (up-down) axis.
    All the axes are driven by cheap 28BYJ-48 stepper motors.

    Operation as a laser marker

    To test the kinematic system and laser control, I used the machine as a laser marker to draw burned image on a paper.
    The image (★) was marked on a paper by raster-scanning laser.

    The burned image was clear, but there were "zig-zag" artifacts on edges.
    As it indicates there are unexpected deviation of X position between left-to-right and right-to-left scan lines, there is room for improvement in mechanical accuracy and/or motion control program.

  • Proof-of-concept experiment

    Satoshi Tanaka03/16/2024 at 01:10 0 comments

    In the beginning of this year (Jan. 26), before building anything, I did a small experiment to confirm the most important idea of this project: hardening polymer clay with laser.


    The materials are:

    The small amount of clay was kneaded and stretched into thin layer of about 1 mm.
    Then the small area on clay was irradiated with laser, in a manner similar to filling an area with pen.
    The laser power (PWM input) was set to 100%.


    The irradiated area became hard rubber-like state, and it was not easily teared apart when pulled.

    Therefore, it is proven that polymer clay can be baked with laser.

    However, the process generated terrible odor. Safety of this process has to be investigated further.

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