If creativity and printing is your hobby, business or part of your day to day operations, here are some of the 3D printing technologies that you should be aware of. You should not be stuck to one technology simply because you don’t have an option!
1. Fused deposition modeling (FDM)
This 3D printing technology is the most popular and commonly used in both 3D pens and 3D printers. It was first developed in the 1980s by Scott Crump. The methodology used to develop the technology has been employed in other similar technologies but this time, under different names.
Using FDM, you can print operational prototypes, plastic materials, Lego and many others. The benefit of using FDM for 3D printing is that the impressions are of high quality and lasts long. Manufactures and mechanic engineers prefer this technology since the printed components can go in high engineering-grade thermoplastic and high performance.
2. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
This 3D printing technology uses a laser as the power source in the formation of 3D solid objects. SLS was first developed by Carl Deckard and Joe Beaman in 1980s. SLS has an upper hand when it comes to 3D printing as compared to stereolithography and Fused Deposition Modelling because it does not require any support structures because the object to be printed is surrounded by un-sintered powder constantly.
The materials that can be printed using SLS include ceramics, aluminum, steel, silver, and nylon. It is mainly used to print customized products which are precious and therefore relatively expensive. The printer is expensive and requires high-powered lasers and this makes it ideal for manufacturers rather than for domestic use.
3. Stereo-lithography (SLA)
This 3D printing technology is ideal for those who are very keen on precision and accuracy. The technology is very fast in printing prototypes. It is famous for the exactness and fine details that it prints including patterns, specific models, prototypes and other production parts.
This 3D printing technology can be applied in various industries including medical, aerospace, and entertainment, automotive and consumer products. Examples of SLA include SUNLU SLA Desktop Printer, XYZ printing Nobel 1.0SLA 3D Printer and DWS Lab Xfab which is the best 3D printer under 500 USD.
4. Digital Light Processing technology (DLP)
This 3D printing technology is the oldest and was developed by Larry Hornbeck in 1980s. It is quite similar to the SLA since it works with polymers. The difference between the two is that DLP uses a traditional light source like arc lamps while SLA uses ultraviolet light.
It is, however, faster than SLA in printing since it exposes all the layers at once while SLA exposes each layer at a time which takes time. DLP normally produces high-resolution models and is economical since it can use cheap materials even for sophisticated and detailed objects. This reduces waste and makes printing cost cheap.
5. Electron Beam Melting technology (EBM)
This 3D printing technology was founded in 1997 by Arcam AB, a Swedish company. EMB uses powder bed fusion technology (strong electron beam in a vacuum). It is well known for printing metals and its ability to acquire integrated geometries and can perform this with freedom of design.
EMB is composite and does not need any auxiliary accessories for 3D printing, it is highly efficient, fast and creates durable and fully functional parts on demand. An example of EBM is Arcam Q20.
6. Selective Laser Melting technology (SLM)
It was developed in 1995 at Fraunhofer Institute ILT as part of a research project in Germany. To form 3D parts, SLM uses a high-powered laser beam just like in LSA. This 3D printing technology is used printing 3D parts that have sophisticated structures, thin walls, and complex geometries.
It is ideal in aerospace industries for printing pioneer projects that require accurate, precise, lightweight and durable parts. Medical industry also employs SLM. Universities, metal powder developers, and researchers are the most common users of SLM technology. The industrial printers include Realizer 125, SLM solutions 125,280 and others.
7. Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
LOM is a rapid 3D printing technology developed by HelisysInc, a California-based company. As the name suggests, LOM works by laminating or rather fusing layers of paper or plastics by use of heat and pressure. A laser or blade that is controlled using a computer cut the objects until the desired shape is achieved.
Though not popular, LOM is still one of the quickest 3D printing technology. It is cheap and can print large 3D objects. It is ideal for product developers, architects, and artists. An example of LOM is The Mcor Matrix.
The 3D printing technology is advancing and becoming easier and more efficient as time goes by. If you need a 3D printer, kindly select a recent one and make sure that it is meant for the work you need to do. It is always good to research a product before making a purchase decision.