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The term 3D printing encompasses several manufacturing technologies that build parts layer-by-layer. Each vary in the way they form plastic and metal parts and can differ in material selection, surface finish, durability, and manufacturing speed and cost.

There are several types of 3D printing, which include:


Fused deposition modeling (FDM)

FDM technology is currently the most popular 3D printing technology and used in both affordable 3D printers and even 3D pens.

This technology was originally developed and implemented by Scott Crump from Stratasys, founded, in the 1980s. Other 3D printing companies have embraced similar technology but under different names. A well-known manufacturer MakerBot coined a virtually identical technology, calling it Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

With the assistance of FDM, you can print not just operational prototypes, but also ready-for-use products such as lego, plastic gears and much more.

What's great about this technology that all components printed with FDM can go in high performance and engineering-grade thermoplastic, which is quite beneficial for mechanic engineers and manufacturers.

FDM is the only 3D printing technology which uses production-grade thermoplastics, so items printed have excellent mechanical, thermal and chemical attributes.

3D printers which use FDM Technology construct objects layer by layer from the very bottom up by heating and extruding thermoplastic filament. The whole process is somewhat similar to stereolithography. Specialized programs or Slicers "cut" CAD models into layers and computes the manner printer's extruder would assemble each layer.

In addition to thermoplastic, a printer may extrude support materials too. Then the printer heats thermoplastic until its melting point and extrudes it throughout nozzle on a printing bed, which you may know as a build platform or a desk, on a predetermined pattern determined by the 3D model and Slicer software.

The Slicer software running on the computer connected to the 3D printer translates the measurements of an object into X, Y, and Z coordinates and controls the nozzle and the foundation follow calculated route during printing.

When the thin layer of plastic binds to the layer beneath it, it melts and hardens. When the layer is completed, the base is lowered to accommodate the printing of the next layer, this is shown in steps 1 to 5 in the diagram below.

Printing time depends upon size and complexity of your model.

Small objects can be completed relative​ly quickly, while larger, more intricate parts need more time.

When compared to SLA, FDM has a slower printing speed.

Overall printing time depends upon size and complexity of your model.

Small objects can be completed relatively quickly, while larger, more intricate parts need more time.

​When the printing is finished supporting materials can readily be removed either by putting an object into a detergent and water solution or snapping the support material off by hand.

Nylon is typically used as a support material and can be dissolved in acetone. Read more about this process in our article about the various types of 3D printer filaments.

Then objects may also be painted, plated or even hammered afterward.

FDM technology is widely spread today, and used in industries such as automobile manufacturers,  food producers, and toy manufacturers.

FDM is used for new product development, prototyping and even in end-product manufacturing. This technology is considered simple-to-use and environment-friendly. Through the use of this 3d printing method, it became possible to construct objects with complex geometries and cavities.

We can use many different types of thermoplastics with FDM printers. The most common of these are ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PLA(Polylactic Acid) plastic.

Additionally, there are several kinds of support materials such as water-soluble wax or PPSF (polyphenylsulfone).

Pieces printed with this technology have excellent mechanical strength and heat resistance, allowing you to use printed models as functional prototypes.

FDM is widely for the production end-user goods. We are specifically referring to small, detailed components and technical manufacturing tools. Some thermoplastics (such as PLA, which is non-toxic) may even be utilized in food and drug packaging, making FDM a favorite 3D printing method within the medical sector.


Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA is a 3d printing method which could be used to execute your projects that involve the 3D printing of items. Although this process is the earliest one in the history of 3D printing, it is still in current time.

The idea and application of this method are amazing. Whether you're a mechanical engineer, who wants to confirm whether the part can fit your design or creative individual who wishes to print a plastic prototype for a fresh upcoming project, Stereolithography can truly bring your 3D models to life.

SLA printing machines do not function like normal desktop printers that extrude some quantity of ink to the surface. SLA 3D printers operate with an excess of liquid plastic that after a while hardens and forms to a solid object.

Parts printed by stereolithography 3D printers usually have smooth surfaces, but its quality depends on the quality of SLA printer used.

After the plastic hardens a stage of the printer drops down in the tank a fraction of a millimeter and laser forms another layer until printing is finished. After all, layers are printed, the item has to be rinsed using a solvent and then put in an ultraviolet oven to complete processing.

The time required to print an object depends upon the size of the SLA 3d printer utilized. Small items can be printed within 6-8 hours using a basic kid's 3D printer, while large 3d prints can be several meters in 3 dimensions and printing time could be up to several days long.

Digital Light Processing(DLP)

DLP is another 3D Printing process quite much like stereolithography. The DLP technology was made in 1987 by Larry Hornbeck of Texas Instruments and became well known for its use in the production of projectors.

It utilizes digital micromirrors laid out on a semiconductor chip. The technology is found in mobile phones, film projectors, and, of course, in 3D printing.

Both DLP and SLA functions with photopolymers. However, the difference between SLA and DLP technology is that DLA requires an additional source of lighting.

3D printing amateurs frequently use more traditional sources of lights like arc lamps for DLP printing.

The other important piece of the DLP puzzle is an LCD (liquid crystal display) panel, which gets applied to the entire surface of the 3D printed layer during a single run of the DLP procedure. The substance used for printing is a liquid plastic resin that's set in a transparent resin container.

The resin hardens quickly when exposed to a lot of photons, or more simply put, bright light.

The printing speed for DLP is the kicker. A layer of hardened material can be produced with this kind of printer in few seconds. After the layer is completed, it is transferred, and printing of the next layer is started.

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