The Effects of Dry Heat Sterilization on Parts Using Selective Laser Sintering

George, Mitchell J.
Crawford, Richard H.
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University of Texas at Austin

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a manufacturing process that can build arbitrarily shaped parts without part specific tooling. Its advantages have been employed in many different fields, one of these being medical surgery. Currently, SLS is limited in medical applications as a pre-operative modeling tool. For SLS manufacturing to progress in areas like compliant surgical tooling and patient specific bone matrices, concurrent work is needed to investigate the effects of medical sterilization on SLS materials. This paper presents the results of sterilization experiments on SLS parts built from nylon 11. To simulate the process of introducing tools into a sterile environment, these specimens were subjected to multiple rounds of dry heat sterilization. Changes to the dimensions, tensile strength and flexibility were recorded and analyzed. It was found that the specimens’ dimensions remained relatively constant. Both the tensile modulus and the flexural modulus decreased as the sterilization cycles progressed. The tensile modulus decreased by 25% and the flexure modulus decreased by 19% after ten rounds of sterilization.