Formlabs Fuse 1: Redefining Nylon Powder 3D Printing
Nylon powder 3D printing is a widely popular option among additive manufacturers looking for durable and strong parts. Formlabs Fuse 1 is an SLS printer that’s changing the face of nylon printing. Massachusetts, U.S.-based Formlabs launched the Fuse 1 in …
Nylon powder 3D printing is a widely popular option among additive manufacturers looking for durable and strong parts. Formlabs Fuse 1 is an SLS printer that’s changing the face of nylon printing.
Massachusetts, U.S.-based Formlabs launched the Fuse 1 in 2018 with a simple goal — making industrial-level SLS technology more accessible with an affordable and powerful printer. The company has delivered on that concept.
In this review we’ll explore why manufacturers choose to print with nylon powder and how they can benefit from printing with Formlabs Fuse 1.
Why Print with Nylon Powder?
Nylon, also known as polyamide (PA) is a commonly used thermoplastic in the additive manufacturing industry. It comes in several varieties, which are identified by the number of carbon atoms in the material mix, such as PA6, PA11, and PA12.
PA6 finds use in filament-based FDM printing. It can provide higher abrasion resistance and durability than other thermoplastics, but it’s also more difficult to print. For example, it requires a heated printing bed.
Instead, nylon materials are most common in powder-based SLS 3D printing. Here, PA12 and PA11 are popular options, and the powder-based technology really lets them shine.
PA12 is the most widespread nylon powder material in additive manufacturing. Part producers favour it for its extremely high rigidity and stress resistance, in addition to its ability to withstand high heat, abrasion, and corrosion.
In addition, PA12 is biocompatible. It will not cause irritation on skin and opens up plenty of opportunities in medical applications.
PA11 is similar to PA12, but it has better thermal stability, higher elasticity, and it resists light and UV radiation better. It also offers longer part lifespan than PA12. Finally, PA11 is usually produced from castor oil instead of petroleum like PA12, which makes it the more environmentally friendly option.
Due to the part properties, manufacturers use nylon powder and SLS 3D printing in applications where durable, lightweight parts are important. Among the most common industries are automotive, healthcare, and general end-use manufacturing.
Meet Formlabs Fuse 1
Although printing with nylon powder offers many benefits, there’s one obstacle standing between additive manufacturers and SLS printers. Traditionally, these kinds of 3D printers were huge, expensive, industrial-scale machines far beyond the budgets of smaller manufacturing operations.
Meet Formlabs Fuse 1. It’s the world’s first workbench-sized SLS 3D printer that’s affordable enough for most any manufacturer.
What makes the Fuse 1 stand apart is that its size and price point don’t sacrifice production efficiency. Sure, it can’t print parts as large as a humongous SLS printer that fills an entire room. But the Fuse 1 is a completely production-ready 3D printer that can create top-quality prototypes and end-use parts quickly and easily.
In general, Formlabs Fuse 1 offers printer operators:
- Simple usability and setup
- Low material consumption
- High detail accuracy
- Durable, resistant parts
- Streamlined post-processing
- Low maintenance requirements
A Closer Look at the Fuse 1
It’s easy to simply list the benefits of any 3D printer, but that gives you only a superficial idea of what the machine is capable of. Let’s take a more detailed look at Formlabs Fuse 1 and its features.
Formlabs Fuse 1 is an SLS 3D printer. It produces parts by laying down a thin layer of powdered nylon on the print bed and then running a high-powered laser across the material.
Areas where the laser points melt together into a solid object, producing the desired geometry. Meanwhile, the material remains in powdered from elsewhere on the print bed. The printer then lowers the print bed slightly and repeats the process until the part is finished.
The Fuse 1 has a minimum layer height of 110 microns, or 0.11 mm. This means that it’s capable of producing very fine detail and accurately recreating, for example, embossed text on part surfaces. It also has a decently sized 16.5×16.5×30 cm print volume, allowing printers to create even larger parts with ease.
The SLS technology allows the Fuse 1 to deliver the least expensive per-part cost in 3D printing. It enables you to create both large, complex parts, or dozens of smaller ones, at a low cost.
As a workbench-sized machine, the Fuse 1 often finds itself sitting in small workshops. To mitigate any potential air quality issues, it features double air filtration (HEPA and carbon).
The Fuse 1 is not an open platform, but it supports printing with both Formlabs PA12 and PA11 materials. As such, it’s suitable for a wide variety of applications, and it can harness the strengths of both materials.
With PA12, it can print durable end-use parts and prototypes. PA11, on the other hand, allows it to create parts that are more wear- and impact-resistant in highly involved applications.
The nature of the powdered material often gives SLS printed parts a porous and grainy surface, particularly on lower end machines. The Fuse 1 creates surfaces that are on par with those that large industrial-level printers produce.
The Fuse 1 also reduces material consumption by allowing you to recycle unused powder. With PA12, it can print with up to 70% reclaimed powder, while PA11 allows for a 50% powder refresh rate.
Simple usability was a priority for Formlabs when designing the Fuse 1. The printer features a large 10.1” colour touchscreen running the Touch UI. The intuitive operating system makes getting the print job running fast and easy.
The touchscreen also displays a live stream of the print bed, allowing you to monitor each layer of the process. This camera feature is essential, as the high-powered SLS laser isn’t safe to look at with your bare eyes.
As any modern 3D printer should, the Fuse 1 offers Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and USB connectivity for transferring information to and from the printer. It can also push notifications to your email or mobile phone to let you know when a print job is ready or the machine needs maintenance.
As an SLS printer, the Fuse 1 offers a significant advantage over many other 3D printing technologies. Each powder layer fills the entire print bed, which allows the unmelted powder to support solid parts.
There’s no need to generate support structures, which significantly reduces the need for post-production. At the same time, it allows for superior design freedom.
But even SLS printed parts need post-processing, including de-powdering. To make the process as simple as possible, the full Fuse 1 workstation comes with the Formlabs Fuse Sift powder recovery station.
The Fuse Sift removes powder from your parts and recycles it for further use in new print jobs. All you have to do is remove the print chamber from the Fuse 1 and pop it into the Fuse Sift. Like the printer itself, the Fuse Sift supports full filtration and vacuum systems to keep the powder out of ambient air.
The Fuse 1 comes with the Formlabs PreForm print preparation software. PreForm is an intuitive printing software that features simple, automated tools for optimizing model orientation and arrangement.
Additionally, PreForm allows you to monitor your printer through the same live stream camera that’s displayed on the touchscreen. This handy feature means that you don’t need to get up when you want to check how your print is progressing.
The Fuse 1 also supports third party software, including Materialise Magics. This support allows you to use practically any highly advanced 3D modelling or printing software with the Fuse 1.
Get More Out of Nylon 3D Printing with the Fuse 1
Formlabs Fuse 1 boasts an impressive collection of features to optimize nylon powder printing. But its greatest contribution is how much it improves the technology’s availability.
At £13,999, the Fuse 1 is up to 20 times cheaper than the usual large SLS printers. While it’s still doesn’t make SLS the cheapest 3D printing technology on the market (simply due to its requirements), it does put it within the grasp of even small manufacturers.
And that’s how the Fuse 1 is really revolutionising nylon powder printing. It allows part producers who couldn’t even dream of affording an SLS 3D printer to start making full productive use of nylon’s impressive material capabilities.