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Every Type of 3D Printing Explained

In an age where we can print objects instead of just documents, you may wonder, “How does 3D printing work?”

Whether you’ve seen one in action or just can’t fathom the concept, this article can help you understand how one type of 3D printing is different from another.

From metal to plastic and everything in between, here are the details of 3D printing explained.

Early 3D Printing

SLA or stereolithography is one of the earliest methods for 3D printing. It uses liquid resin to build the object in layers using a laser. These often have smoother surfaces than other methods.

After printing, the object has to be washed in a chemical solvent and baked in a UV oven to cure.

Another early type of 3D printing is DLP or digital light processing. This uses photopolymers the same way SLA does, but it also uses an extra light source like an arc lamp.

A DLP printer applies an LCD panel to the entire surface of the object, and the resin hardens quickly under the influence of the photopolymers. One layer is done in a few seconds, as opposed to SLA printing, which can take several hours for a small project, or days for a more involved object.

Most Popular Type of 3D Printing

FDM or fused deposition modeling is the most common type of 3D printers. It’s also called FFF (fused filament fabrication).

Some of the most common 3D printers use this method. A CAD program tells the computer how to write or print each layer (what path the nozzle should follow). Then the machine heats up the plastic filament to its melting point and extrudes it along that path.

When the plastic meets the layer beneath it, it binds to it and cools, hardening in the process. Then the machine lowers the object so the printer can add the next layer.

Learn more and explore possible issues with this or the other types of 3D printing.

SLS and Other Methods

Selective laser sintering is a newer method of 3D printing using a powder instead of resin, which can be glass, nylon, or even metal.

The printer adds a thin layer of the material at a time, like other methods, but not using a nozzle. It adds the entire layer in a sheet using a recoating blade. A CO2 laser then sinters the powder and solidifies it.

Material Jetting, or MJ, combines the ideas behind FDM and SLS printing. It adds a powder but uses a nozzle, sintering the layer after it’s built, then curing it with UV light.

In DMLS, or direct metal laser sintering, the process is similar to SLS except it’s specific to metal material. The part goes through deburring and bead blasting at the end to ensure a smooth surface.

Electron beam melting or EBM uses an electromagnetic coil to control an electron beam that melts the metal powder. This printer requires a vacuum to build in.

A World of Creativity

If you’re considering getting a 3D printer for your company, consider the advantages each type of 3D printing has to offer. The different methods of printing listed above can help you understand which one would work best for your project.

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