Laser Sintering?

I was wondering if the Glowforge team has tried to do any sintering with the Glowforge? I’m not sure what you can do with the 40/45W laser, but it would be really cool to make some glass objects from sand!! My initial guess at a problem you guys might face is the exhaust, it could just blow the sand around too much for this to be able to work. Otherwise, I think it would be a really cool experiment to try. :smiley:

If it works, I could see myself engraving something into wood, filling the engraving with a colored sand/powder and sintering it in place.

Sintering can be done at 40W (many material require <5W) but requires a pretty large powder handling system and is a whole big messy can of worms. There are some open source powder handling modules that you can build and drop into a laser cutter (preferably one with a removable floor). But why would you want to ruin the inside of your shiny new GF with all kinds of nasty dust? Get a cheap and crappy Chinese laser off eBay and then you won’t feel bad when the inside looks like a sandbox and your mirrors are all scratched up.

…just remember to ground the case and add a safety interlock! I bought a K40 ($500 low-cost Chinese laser) but decided it was just too risky to power up after inspecting it closely.

And no, we haven’t tried turning a Glowforge into a sandbox, but do let me know how it goes. :smile:

@fablab_elpaso Thanks for the info and the link. I didn’t realize that the power requirement was so low for sintering.

Maybe I should clarify what I’m asking/thinking. First off, I definitely don’t want to turn my Glowforge into a sandbox (I’m pretty sure my wife would kill me if I did that. My cat, on the other hand, would love it :stuck_out_tongue: ). What I was thinking is with the optical alignment that the Glowforge is capable of, you might be able to get away with a little bit of powder in specific areas.

For example, lets say I laser engrave a map. I engrave a pocket for the water features, put in a blue powder that can be sintered into the pocket, then have the Glowforge align to that feature to sinter it. If it works, you could end up with a pretty cool piece of art.

I will admit though, I have very little experience with laser sintering. If what I am asking is completely infeasible, please let me know.


Sounds like a really interesting idea! I’ve never heard of ‘sintering’.
However, molten glass stays hot for quite a while I think, so may burn into the wood (or whatever) it’s sitting in.

I would never do this to a glow forge… but you just gave me a great use for my Full Spectrum Hobby Gen 5 when I retire it! :smile:

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Actually, that’s a really neat idea. Put it in our “things to do when we have spare glowforges” list.


@Dan, what about the idea of sintering precious metal clays? No dust, because the metal is embedded in clay. I’d love to hear about that possibility.

Never tried it! Sounds cool. Do you have a source for the clay? or just google PMC

Now this sounds very interesting, but I’m concerned about whether or not with the tools available to us through glowforge’s website will allow us the fine-grained control necessary to attain the necessary heat for sufficient spans of time to process the clay.

Depending on the clay used, temperatures required range from 800F to 2000F, sometimes in multiple stages (i.e. do 1000 F for so long, then 1400F for so much longer)

Still, if it CAN be done, it could be an interesting way to do insets in materials you generally don’t want to put in a kiln (like wood)

Very cool! If we don’t get to try it, you’ll have to do it and let us know how it works out.

I’m interested too: I recall baking enameled badges at school: glass power onto metal.

My instinct says that a thin layer of glass/metal powder would melt quite nicely. Who is willing to try?

Dan - you’ll want to do a bit of research before dealing with precious metal clay.
The stuff is great to work with once you understand the peculiarities (shrinkage, outgassing when baked, etc.). It’s a bit like sculpy in many regards, but the end result is semi-porus metal instead of plastic. And yes, a laser might be able to do the bake work, but the clay shrinks when baked (up to 30% for the ones I used to work with!), and that might present a problem when you bake it unevenly (ie: raster scan).

It looks like they already make some products that do what I’m looking for. It is a powder you put into a laser engraved pocket to add color to it. Here is an instructable on it.

Cool! This looks fun to try.