Did you know 3D printing has been around for decades?
Its concept first existed in 1945, but 3D printing became a reality in 1971. Its first primitive form is the Liquid Metal Recorder, which became the basis for rapid prototyping.
The good news is it became accessible to businesses and consumers alike. Nowadays, we have different types of 3D printing.
If you’re in the market for a 3D printer, how do you know which one to choose? Find out more about 3D printing technology below.
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Stereolithography is the original method of industrial 3D printing. Chuck Hull invented the technology in 1983. A previous patent also described this technique for additive manufacturing.
SLA uses a technique called Vat Polymerization. In this method, a light source cures a photopolymer gum. The printer uses mirrors called galvanometers to aim a laser beam into the resin.
This process selectively solidifies a cross-section of the object. It builds up the item layer by layer in the forming zone. Most printers use a solid-state laser for curing.
Its result is a highly-accurate object with fine details and smooth surface finishes. The SLA technique produces isotropic and watertight prototypes, making it the best 3D printer for various markets.
SLA printers are standard in medical, aviation, engineering, jewelry, and other industries. They’re one of the best options for prototypes requiring smooth surfaces and tight tolerances.
However, using a point laser to trace the cross-section of an object takes longer. Other processes can harden a layer all at once.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Fused deposition modeling or fused filament fabrication is a material extrusion device. It’s the most common and affordable technology used globally.
It’s what might pop into your head when you think of 3D printers. Most home devices use this technology. You can use it alongside a portable 3D scanner, like the Einscan HX handheld model.
FDMs print from a spool of durable thermoplastic material. The nozzle heats up and melts the filament. The printer pushes the melted plastic through the extrusion head.
The printer nozzle moves according to the specified coordinates. It lays down the melted filament onto the printing bed in a single layer. The material then cools down and solidifies.
After it finishes a layer, the printer lays down another layer. It builds the object by repeatedly printing cross-sections until the item is complete.
It’s a quick solution to printing and delivering physical models. However, FDM isn’t suitable for functional testing.
While it’s fast, it produces the lowest resolution and accuracy. The surface is rough, and the item lacks strength. It’s not the best solution for printing complex designs or objects with intricate features.
Still, FDM printers are perfect for simple prototyping and basic models. Other productions may also use more processes to mitigate some issues.
Other industries also use this technology for more types of applications. In buildings, for example, the printer may extrude clay or concrete instead. Some food industry shops create deserts by 3D printing them with chocolate.
Digital Light Processing (DLP)
Digital light processing is also another type of vat polymerization. It’s similar to stereolithography since it uses light to cure the resin. However, it doesn’t use a laser.
This technique uses a digital light projector instead. It flashes a single image of a layer at once, resulting in faster builds.
The projector is a digital screen, forming the image of each layer. The picture has square pixels, which translates to the small rectangular blocks called voxels.
Like SLA, DLP produces smooth surfaces and complex objects, as well. Its applications range from dental to music industries.
The advantage is that it’s faster than SLA. It can have a higher output, making it suitable for low-volume productions.
One major disadvantage makes it unsuitable for mechanical parts, though. The 3D-printed objects using this technique have a weak structure.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
As the name suggests, selective laser sintering uses a high-powered laser. This technique sinters or melts together polymer powder into a solid object.
The most common material for this type of 3D printing is nylon. It possesses excellent mechanical properties:
It’s also resistant to heat, water, UV light, chemicals, and dirt.
As a result, SLS 3D printers produce sturdier objects. Their strength is comparable to that of injection-molded parts. For this reason, this technique is ideal for prototype designs that would one day undergo injection molding.
SLS is ideal for complex functional geometries. Objects are suitable for both utilitarian testing and custom manufacturing.
However, it requires longer lead times, and the surfaces have rougher finishes. SLS is more expensive, as well. Still, it’s becoming cheaper as industrial patents expire.
Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
Multi-jet fusion is another form of powder bed fusion 3D printing technology. It assembles parts from nylon powder, too. Instead of using a laser, it uses an inkjet cluster to apply fusing agents.
An MJF printer consists of multiple inkjet heads. These arrays deposit the fusing agent and a detailing agent into the bed of powder.
Heat allows the areas with the fusing agent to melt together and solidify. Those with the detailing agent remain in powder form. This process repeats layer by layer until the object is complete.
With this technology, a printer can fabricate several objects without slowing down. It produces parts faster, leading to lower production costs. The resulting items have smoother finishes and more consistent mechanical properties.
Learn More About the Types of 3D Printing
There are more types of 3D printing aside from the methods above. The best technique depends on the application, as different industries have varying requirements.
For home usage, for example, extrusion technology remains the most accessible. Regardless, the future of printing doesn’t stop here.
Do you want more helpful guides? If so, learn more by checking out our other articles.