3D printing, generally known as Additive manufacturing, has been around for a long time. This technology offers versatile solutions in a wide variety of applications. Over the last few years, it has become more affordable, more reliable, and easier to use for businesses, but choosing between the different types of 3D printing solutions can be difficult. So, What is 3D printing? How does it work? What are the different types of 3D printing? In this guide, we’ll answer all these questions.

What Is 3D Printing?

3D Printing is a process of making an object from a three-dimensional digital part by laying down several thin layers of material using computer-aided design (CAD) models. This is called an additive process because the object is built from scratch. However, 3D printing employs a variety of techniques and materials to transform a digital object into its physical state, and there are several different types of 3D printers. We will go into further details in the guide.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

3D printing does not need any special tools. Instead, the part is manufactured layer-by-layer onto the built platform. The process begins with a digital 3D model, which is the blueprint of the physical object. The printer’s software slices this model into thin dimensional layers and then turned into a set of instructions in machine language for the printer to execute. From here, the way a 3D printer works varies.

Therefore, to know more about how 3D printing works, you’ll need to understand the different types of 3D printers. Below is a brief explanation of the most common types of 3D printing technology.

1.     Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused Deposition Modeling is one of the most common types of desktop 3D printing. In this process, a material usually PLA or ABS plastic is melted and extruded via a nozzle and can be moved in both vertical and horizontal directions layer by layer which is controlled by computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. This process repeats continuously until the object is completed.

2.     Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography was the world’s first 3D printing technology. It involves a laser being used to hardened liquid resin with ultraviolet light in a process called photopolymerization. The resin solidifies in the desired pattern, and the object is built one layer at a time, generating the 3D part.

3.     Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering is also similar to the stereolithography type because laser is used to harden the material and form a solid shape in this process. The most significant difference between these two printers is that while stereolithography (SLA) printer uses liquid resin, SLS cures powdered material. However, SLS is advantageous because it supports a vast array of materials, including glass, plastics, and some metals.

4.     Digital Light Processing (DLP) 

This type is similar to the SLA except for the use of UV laser to cure the photopolymer resin. The liquid plastic resin used in DLP goes into a translucent resin container. While SLA makes use of ultraviolet light, DLP uses the traditional light source. This process results in impressive printing speeds. 

5.     Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

The Laminated Object Manufacturing process includes layers of adhesive-coated paper that are cut to shape with a laser cutter layers and glued together using a heated roller. A roller with the material frequently moves each new sheet repeatedly. This process progresses over and over until the 3D part is complete.

6.     Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

Selective laser melting types uses 3D CAD data as a source and forms 3D object using a high-power laser beam that melts and fuses metallic powders. However, most sources consider SLM to be a subcategory of SLS. But this is not exactly true as the SLM process fully melts the printing material into solid 3D-dimensional objects, unlike SLS.

7.     Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)

The EBM is nearly identical to SLM, except that EBM uses an electron beam to form 3D object while their SLM counterparts use high-power laser beam. The remaining processes are pretty similar.

In Conclusion

3D printing is advancing all the time and becoming more affordable to all users. We hope you now have a good basic understanding of the different types of 3D printers and how they work after reading this from top to bottom.

Last modified: July 21, 2019

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