Different 3D printing Technologies. The area of 3D printing is vast and if you’re new to the technology then it can be quite a daunting area to learn about. This post aims to give a brief overview of the main types of 3D printing technologies available. 3D printing has been around for decades and is currently in the middle of a consumer revolution. Over the past 5-8 years we have seen the emergence of desktop style printing that has greatly increased the profile of the technology. Here’s a snapshot of the main 3D printing technologies available below;
Image from enablingthefuture.org
1. FDM 3D printing.
FDM stands for fused deposition modelling and is what many will argue is the most recognisable 3D printing technology to the public. Since patents expired in 2009 these types of printers have been on a journey of mass evolution. They have made their way into homes and offices and most recently they are being adopted on mass by schools and educational institutions. The main reason is the cost, they are affordable and range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. FDM 3D printers work by extruding plastic filament in a layer by layer format. They are relatively low tech and you can even buy 3D printers from Staples and Best Buy.
2. SLA 3D printing.
SLA printing stands for ‘stereolithography apparatus’ and is considered a more advanced version of 3D printing. The concept of building a design layer by layer is still the same, however this technology works by focusing an ultra violet laser onto a vat of resin. Then the UV laser will draw a pre-programmed design created from a CAD model onto the surface of the resin vat. The resin then solidifies to form a single layer of the design. The process is then repeated until the design has been full printed. The most popular type of SLA printer at the moment is the Formlab 2. Formlabs have been on a world wide journey with their famous desktop SLA 3D printer. This has allowed consumers to access industry level technology on a personal desktop level.
Image from 3ders.org
3. SLS 3D printing
SLS printing stands for ‘selective laser sintering’ and is one of the most advanced types of 3D printing technologies available. SLS printers are mostly used by industry professionals and they deliver very high resolution outcomes. They work by using high powered lasers to solidify small particles of plastic, metal or ceramics into layers. This type of printing (unlike FDM and SLA) is unique in that it doesn’t require support material to be added to the design. A full layer is printed into the print area and only the design is solidified by the high powered laser. This allows for complex designs to be created that other different types of 3D printers would struggle with.
Image from 3ders.org
4. Digital Light processing (DLP)
DLP 3D printing is similar to SLA 3dprinting technology in that they use resin as a material to build with. DLP printers work by exposing a vat of resin to a projected layer of a design. The resin then solidifies and the build plate moves down slightly where the process is repeated until the design is fully printed. DLP 3D printers, like SLA and FDM, need support structures to be printed. DLP can deliver faster print times as each layer is exposed to a ‘flash’ of light rather than being drawn out by a laser. Smaller parts are detailed, however larger parts that dominate the build volume can lose their resolution and become ‘coarse’. The moonray 3dprinter has been making it’s way onto desktops around the world.
5. CLIP 3D printing.
CLIP (continuous liquid interface production) has been pioneered by Carbon 3D. This technology is exciting and game changing in the world of additive manufacturing. It’s similar to DLP however it’s much faster and eliminates the concept of layers. The result of this is a 3D printing process that is up to 100 times faster than traditional 3D printers with outcomes that have the properties of existing moulding techniques, such as injection moulding. CLIP 3D printers are for the very high end of industry and it will be some time before we see this technology at consumer level.
For hundreds of free designs to 3dprint on any of these printers, then visit our home page www.3dfilemarket.com
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