3D printing is excellent. But do you know that there are different types of 3D printing technology? Which type of 3d printing tech is right for you?
This post will explore the most popular types of 3D printing technology and their unique characteristics. If you are a beginner, I recommend you read the introduction post before you start. It takes only 5 minutes.
Types of 3D Printing Technology:
There are different types of 3d printing technologies. But they all similarly build the final 3d model. They make it layer by layer using other materials depending on the technology.
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): Let’s call it FDM. FDM is one of the most widely used 3D printing technologies. It involves melting a thermoplastic material and depositing it layer by layer to form a 3D object. This technology is affordable, easy to use, and suitable for printing large, simple parts.
- Stereolithography (SLA): SLA uses a laser to solidify a liquid resin material layer by layer, forming a 3D object. This technology is suitable for printing highly detailed and intricate parts but is also more expensive than FDM.
- Digital Light Processing (DLP): DLP is similar to SLA but uses a projector to cure the resin material. This technology is faster than SLA but is limited to printing small parts.
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): SLS uses a laser to fuse a powdered material layer by layer, forming a 3D object. This technology is suitable for printing parts with complex geometries but is also more expensive than FDM.
- Binder Jetting: Binder jetting involves spreading a powdered material and depositing a binder layer by layer to form a 3D object. This technology is suitable for printing full-color parts but is limited in resolution.
- Material Jetting: Material jetting uses a printhead to deposit a liquid photopolymer material layer by layer, forming a 3D object. This technology is suitable for printing parts with high accuracy and resolution but is more expensive than FDM.
- Electron Beam Melting (EBM): EBM uses an electron beam to melt a powdered metal material layer by layer, forming a 3D object. This technology is suitable for printing metal parts but is more expensive than other 3D printing technologies.
I know… this is a lot for beginners to take in. So I made a short table to summarise the key details.
|Technology||How it works||Cost||Maintainence||Uses|
|Fused deposition modelling (FDM)||FDM printers melt a thermoplastic filament and push it out through a heated nozzle to create the 3D object layer by layer.||Low to Mid||Low||Prototypes, Home Printing|
|Stereolithography (SLG)||SLA printers use a UV laser to cure liquid resin into a solid object layer by layer.||High||Moderate||Dental, Jewelry, Prototyping|
|Digital light processing (DLP)||DLP printers work similarly to SLA printers but use a projector to cure the resin.||High||Moderate||Dental, Jewelry, Prototyping|
|Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)||SLS printers use a laser to fuse powdered materials, such as metal or nylon, to create the 3D object layer by layer.||High||High||Aerospace, Medical Devices, Automotive|
|Binder jetting||Binder Jetting printers bind powder particles together using a liquid binding agent.||Mid to High||Moderate||Prototyping|
|Material jetting||Material Jetting printers use inkjet print heads to deposit droplets of material onto a build platform, layer by layer.||High||Moderate||Medical Devices, Dental, Prototyping|
|Electron beam melting (EBM)||EBM printers use an electron beam to melt metal powder, layer by layer, to create the 3D object.||High||High||Aerospace, Automotive, Medical Devices|
Types of 3D printing technology
As you can see from the table, the costs, maintenance, and use cases of each 3D printing technology vary greatly. FDM is the most cost-effective option and is ideal for prototyping, small production runs, and home printing. SLA and DLP printers are expensive but are great for high-detail printing, i.e., printing detailed, intricate parts, such as in the dental and jewelry industries.
SLS is ideal for printing complex geometries in aerospace, medical devices, and automotive applications due to its ability to use various materials, including metals. Binder Jetting is a good option for prototyping and tooling, while Material Jetting is ideal for medical devices and dental applications. EBM is a highly specialized technology mainly used in the aerospace, automotive, and medical devices industries.
Maintenance requirements also vary among the different types of 3D printing technologies. FDM printers require the least maintenance, while SLS and EBM require the most. However, the maintenance requirements are proportional to the complexity of the technology and the materials used.
Understanding the differences between 3D printing technologies is essential for choosing the right technology for your application. With the different types of 3D printing technology available, there is a solution for any manufacturing need.
Featured image by: Photo by Kuba Grzybek: