3D printing has seemingly taken over the world! Because of it’s increasing popularity with both manufacturers and hobbyists, more and more 3D printers are being produced each year. There also many different types of 3D printing technologies, which vary in cost, effectiveness, materials used, speed and cost. These include:
- Stereolithography (SLA)
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
- Digital Light Process (DLP)
- Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
- Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
- Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
Because there are quite a few, we will be breaking this post into two parts, with the next part coming next week, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, let’s discuss some 3D printing methods!
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is one of the most widely available 3D Printing technology today. It uses a process called material extrusion, where a solid material, usually some form of thermoplastic (PLA, ABS, PET, etc.) is pushed through a heated nozzle attached to the printer head, melting the material. As the printer head moves along specific coordinates, it deposits the material, where it cools and solidifies, forming a solid object.
- Relatively Inexpensive
- Ease of Use
- Wide Variety of Materials
Stereolithography (SLA) uses a printing method called vat polymerization, where a material called photopolymer resin is exposed to an ultraviolet laser, which is used to draw pre-preprogrammed designs or shapes onto the material. This process is repeated for each layer until a 3D object is completed, and then washed in a solvent to remove excess resin. Because of this, SLA printing is often messy. You are also restricted to printing with resin materials, which can be expensive. The benefits, however, include:
- Higher quality prints than FDM
- Faster Print Speed
- Stronger Finished Products
Selective laser sintering (SLS) uses a laser to sinter powdered material together until a 3D model is formed. Unlike FDM and SLA, which have become incredibly popular in the hobbyist market, SLS has remained mostly in the realm of industrial manufacturing, because of the high cost (and potential dangers) of the lasers and materials. There are many advantages to SLS printing, including:
- The ability to print objects without support structures.
- High Strength and Stiffness
- Good Chemical Resistance
- Incredibly fast print speed
Stay tuned for next week for part two, where we discuss even more 3D printing methods!