Types Of 3D Printers: All The Different Printing Technologies

Three dimensional printing machine,3D printer.

The Types Of 3D Printing

  1. Stereolithography (SLA)
  2. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  3. Digital Light Processing (DLP)
  4. PolyJet
  5. Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
  6. Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
  7. Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
  8. Binder Jetting (BJ) Technology
  9. Drop on Demand (DOD)
  10. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

3D printing has grabbed the world by storm and has come a long way from being an experimental form of modeling to potentially becoming one of the most important tools for future developments in many industries.

In a span of less than a decade, 3D printing technology started to be used in the medical industry, construction, industrial design, and art so let’s investigate the most popular types of 3D printing technologies and how they work so you can choose the best 3D printer for your use case:

Stereolithography (SLA)

This form of 3D printing called Stereolithography is one of the traditional methods or types of 3D printing. It is used to create various different models, prototypes, and patterns using liquid resin photo solidification technology or optical fabrication. These resin printers rely on a chemical process to create polymers that end up being building blocks of a 3D model.

Stereolithography is known for its 3D printing speed however, some producers tend to avoid it because it is expensive.

Stereolithography works by using a UV laser that draws a design or a shape on a polymer vet. This is possible because polymers are sensitive to UV lights and can be easily shaped and solidified into the desired form. The process is repeated, layer by layer after which the final model is washed with a solvent to remove any unnecessary resin from the surface.

Uses: Stereolithography is great for producing accurate models and is beloved in the implant industry for its precision as well as producing scale models and concept models.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a 3D printing technique in which a laser beam is used as a power source on a material that is powdered. The laser binds the material together and creates a solid structure.

This is a new technology and might not be the best option when you need to mass-produce models. SLS printers are valued for their speed but work best for production of lower volume. Scientists and developers are working on making the technology work faster so that it can be used in mass production.

The quality of this technique depends on the type of material and powder properties. The most common materials used in this technique are polyamides and different polymers.

Uses: Selective Laser Sintering printer is also great in terms of accuracy and is being used by engineers and industry manufacturers for decades now. It gives you the design freedom that many other printers do not.

Digital Light Process (DLP)

Digital Light Processing is another form of 3D printing technology and it is based on a technology that uses a digital micromirror device. This technology it was available for almost four decades and is still used in a wide range of areas like security industries and for medical applications.

DLP is quite versatile in terms of materials used for 3D objects so anything from solid filaments to metal powders can be used. The technology works by using a light source to polymerize the material into a 3D model. The light projectors are very sensitive and are made out of thousands of micromirrors that help sharpen and navigate the beam of light.

The great thing about this technology is that it does not start drawing the layer from one point, it flashes the entire image of the entire layer of an object on the resin instead of going point by point does making it a must much faster option than others.

Uses: Digital Light Processing is great for intricate design and the layer thickness is up to five microns. They are also known to sometimes create the so-called staircase phenomenon that affects the smoothness and shows some visible layer lines.

PolyJet

PolyJet method of 3D printing is a technology that creates 3D objects with an impeccable accuracy that can be pinpointed down to 0.014 millimeters. The great thing about this technology is that it will not crash when you feed it a complex geometric 3D shape. It is for this reason why this type of 3D printer can cost up to $43,000.

This type of printer uses a dissolvable material which is either polyethylene, propylene, or glycerine which are dispersed into thousands of photopolymer droplets that are solidified with UV light. Although known for its prissiness, you would likely find this 3D printer to be some of the most precise ones on the market.

Uses: PolyJet 3D printing process is beloved by designers and industry professionals that are looking for accurate models with smooth surfaces and delicate features. We would not recommend it for industrial large-scale production as it is ideal for small prototypes and models that are extremely detailed.

Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)

Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers work in a way to print each layer of new material on top of a previous layer like some of the 3D printers that we already mentioned. What separates it from other types of 3D printers is that it can create parts and models that cannot be made by other methods. The Multi Jet Fusion has the capacity to completely fuse the layers together which delivers stronger quality and durability of the final 3D object.

Uses: Multi Jet Fusion printers create durable and accurate parts and fixtures that can be sold even as end-use parts. It is ideal for the automotive industry but is also used in a wide variety of industries.

Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

The Electron Beam Melting 3D printing technology works by placing the raw material under a vacuum causing it to fuse together caused by the heat of the electron electronic beam. It is more similar to the Multi Jet Fusion method which causes the raw material to completely fuse after being melted.

This technology uses either metal powdered-based systems or metal wire-based systems to solidify objects. It is ideal for metals like titanium alloys that are used in the medical industry in the 3D printing of prostheses.

Uses: The Electron Beam Melting is ideal for those who are looking for parts and models that are extremely dense but lightweight. The technology was developed by Swedes and if you are looking for an ideal 3D printer for industrial use this is the one. Beware that the type of powder and material used for printing will give different results in the look and quality of your final product.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

Direct Metal Laser Sintering is more adapted for industrial printing processes involving laser melting and it can deliver even some of the most complex models in less than seven days. It is adapted for use of many different materials and the entire process is driven by a computer that is very precise and the prototypes are typically made out of metal.

After the final product is complete, it needs to be refined by brushing out the loose powder and treating it with heat. The DMLS technology is known for producing nearly 100% dense objects.

Uses: Direct Metal Laser Sintering is a type of 3D printing ideal for creating rapid metal prototypes in no time. This metal binder is considered more of an industrial-type printer rather than anything that would be good for designers and artists.

Binder Jetting (BJ) Technology

The Binder Jetting technology deposits a liquid agent from a print head that binds onto a powder layer of particles on a printer bed. These particles can be metal powder, sand, and ceramics, ideal for multi-material 3D printing and a wider range of products. The major difference between BJ and other technologies is that the number of print head holes that deposit material on the powdery surface can be increased therefore increasing the pace of the printing.

Uses: BJ technology is great for 3D full-color parts and it is used to create full-color models, especially 3D figurines and even topographical maps. The benefit is that the material thickens quickly and this technology is getting faster and faster as new printers emerge on the market.

Drop on Demand (DOD)

Drop on demand 3D printing process works by depositing 3D printer filament from a printer head onto a print bed or a flat surface and curing it when exposed to light. It is a typical layer by layer at a time process that depends on the powder bed fusion. Although very convenient and easy to use, some types of Drop on Demand 3D printers are known for their nozzles becoming clogged from the droplets that are dispersed.

Uses: Drop on Demand 3D printers are great for printing medical implants such as dental prostheses or even architectural modeling that grow on a printer bed. This is the technology that you hear about when 3D organ printing and many new 3D innovations are mentioned.

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

Fused Deposition modeling uses a thermoplastic filament that gets melted by a heated printer head. This process creates the 3D models from a thermoplastic material that you might have seen in YouTube videos and is beloved by those who like to take up 3D printing as a hobby.

Wrapping up

3D printing is a very complex area of manufacturing, design, and creativity and it is offering more and more possibilities as the technology gets more precise. Just a few years ago it was unthinkable that companies will be 3D printing houses and printing living tissue.

We are excited to see what the future may bring in 3D printing and we hope you learned something new about these exciting technologies.

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