A decade ago, 3D printing technology was the preserve of hi-tech companies. However, things have changed over the last couple of years since 3D printing has exploded in popularity. Today, there is an increase in affordable 3D printers, which hobbyists and small-scale businesses can use for their projects. That said, 3D printers vary significantly, and they come in a variety of models. This article highlights the most common 3D printer types you will come across when shopping for one.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Printers
FDM 3D printers are arguably the most common in the industry; hence, they are readily available for hobbyists and small-scale printing providers. Fused deposition modelling refers to the additive process that the 3D printers rely on to create a model. The process involves heating and exuding plastic and the printing process on a layer-on-layer pattern. To produce a 3D model, FDM printers follow the X, Y, and Z axes. One unique thing about FDM-style printers is that they move the bed along the motors' Y, X, and Z axes. Thus, it offers the printer greater control, allowing for excellent printing results. Most importantly, products generated using FDM printers are notorious for their horizontal layer lines. Therefore, you must smooth out the final prints to elevate quality.
These models use photo-solidification to heat and solidify liquid thermoset resin and form structurally strong layers during the printing process. SLA 3D printing is suitable for creating concept models, rapid prototypes, and parts with intricate geometries in as little time as 24 hours. Moreover, SLA printers can produce parts with high feature resolutions, extremely fine details, and smooth finishes, eliminating post-printing touch-ups. Typically, SLA 3D printing is suited for producing prototypes that enable fast validation of a concept. Notably, stereolithography printing is ideal when you are strapped for time and want to immediately produce intricate parts for your project.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
Although selective laser sintering is slightly similar to SLA 3D printing, the printing process in the former involves lasers and powders rather than UV light and liquid resin. It means that some SLS printers can print metal objects. Notably, the laser melts the powder during the printing process, creating layers to form a complete section of a product. Once the melted powder solidifies, the printer repeats the whole process until the final product is complete. SLS 3D printing is commonly used to produce objects with detailed parts.
Talk to a printer supplier to find a 3D printer, such as a Zortrax 3D printer.