Technique

3D print techniques; which ones are there and what can you do with them?

By Site editors - Disclosure - Price update: 22 October 2019 -

Patent disputes, crafty marketing teams and feuds between inventors have led to a point where identical printing techniques are often used by different brands with different names. Many 'new technologies' are presented as revolutionary, when in fact they are comparable or even completely identical to existing printing techniques.

3D Printer Site U.S. shines light on the darkness: What technologies are there and what can you do with them?

Main groups
In order not to lose sight of the forest for the trees, below similar printing techniques are grouped together.

Extrusion (Material extrusion)

This 3D printing technology makes use of an additive process, where a model is created through the heating and extrusion (special molding technique) of plastic. It is printed layer for layer. The majority of 3D printers make use of this 3D printing technology, because it is inexpensive and is offered at a larger scale.

The 3D print process starts with a wire of solid material called a filament. This wire is lead from a roll on the 3D printer to a heated nozzle within the 3D printer that melts the material. When the filament has melted, it can be extruded on a specific and previously defined path via the 3D software. When the material is extruded as a layer of the to be printed object, it immediately cools and hardens. This layer then becomes the basis for the following layer of material and the process is repeated until the whole object has been completed.

As the most affordable 3D printing technology on the market, this technology offers a divers range of plastic-based materials in a rainbow of colors, including among others ABS, PLA and Nylon as well as more exotic material mixtures, including carbon, bronze or wood. This printing technology is a good choice for fast and affordable prototyping and can be used for a large number of applications. More recent innovations in 3D printing allow the production of functional end products with embedded electronics and mechanical parts such as drones. This technology is not recommended for more complex designs.

Names
To this group belong the printing technologies Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). This 3D printing technology makes use of composites and plastics as 3D print materials (filament).

For more information about 3D print materials (filaments) check out our extensive special here.

Brands
Brands that make use of this technology:

Photopolymerization

Photopolymerization creates objects from a liquid photosensitive polymer resin with a light source that solidifies the liquid material. To create a 3D object, the build platform is submerged in a tank filled with liquid resin. Once the build platform has been submerged, a light source in the 3D printer maps each layer of the to be printed object through the bottom of the tank, solidifying the material. After the layer has been mapped and solidified by the light source, the platform will be raised and a new resin layer will flow under the object. This process is repeated layer by layer until the desired object has been completed. Several methods can be distinguished depending on the light source: SLA makes use of a laser, while DLP makes use of a projector. CDLP makes use of oxygen and LED light.

The materials are limited to resins, but recently new resins have appeared that can add strength or flexibility to the final objects.

Photopolymerization printers produce very accurate parts with smooth surfaces and are often used for very detailed statues, jewelry molds and prototypes. Because of the relatively small size of these 3D printers, they are often not suitable for printing large objects.

Names
This group contains among others the print technologies Stereolithography (SLA), Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Continuous Digital Light Processing (CDLP). This 3D print technology makes use of resin as the 3D print material.

For more information about 3D print materials (filaments) check out our extensive special here.

Brands
The following brands make among others use of this 3D print technology:

Power bed fusion

This printing technology is similar to stereo lithography, except that it works with a light source (often laser) and powders instead of UV light and fluids. A light source is used to melt the powder, leaving a small layer. This way it is also possible to print with metals. This temperature is just low enough to not melt the powder. Because the powder almost doesn't melt, the powder grains grow together, making it very hard. Within this technology there exist several sub-technologies, of which Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is best known.

This print technology is the most common metal 3D print technology that makes objects from thin layers of powdered material through selective melting with the aid of a heat source.

During the printing process the 3D printer distributes a layer of metal powder on a build platform, which is melted by a laser (SLM) or an electron beam (EBM). The build platform is then lowered, coated with a new layer of metal powder and the process is repeated until the object has been completely formed. This 3D print technology requires support structures, where overhanging structures are anchored to the build platform. Furthermore, this technology often takes place in low-oxygen or vacuum environments in order to reduce thermal stresses and warping. It is often used in industrial 3D printing. Materials include various metals and alloys including steel, titanium, aluminum, cobalt-chromium and nickel.

Metal printing is considered to be the 'holy grail' of additive manufacturing and 3D printing. It is widely used in the aerospace sector, in aircraft, the car industry and health care sector for a range of high-tech, low-volume use cases from prototyping to final production. 3D printed metal parts allow for monolithic construction (reduction of the amount of components), miniaturization and mass reduction. SLM and EBM have evolved to a stage where these printers are similar to traditionally manufactured parts in regard to chemical composition, mechanical properties (static and fatigue) and microstructure.

Names
This group contains among others the following print technologies: Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Electron Beam Melting (EBM). This 3D print technology makes use of Plastic and Metal.

For more information about 3D print materials (filaments) check out our extensive special here.

Brands
The following brands make among others use of this 3D printing technology:

Material Jetting

This 3D print technology is comparable to printing with a normal inkjet printer, but instead of spraying drops of ink onto paper, the 3D printer sprays layers of liquid photopolymer onto the build platform. These harden with the help of UV-light.

The build process begins when the printer shoots the liquid material onto the build platform. These jets are followed by UV-light, which immediately harden the liquid photopolymer. Because the process is repeated, these thin films accumulate to an object on the build platform. When overhanging or complicated shapes have to be supported, the 3D printer will print a removable gel-like support material that can be removed after printing has been completed.

This 3D print technology is especially used in industrial 3D printers. Material choices consist of liquid photopolymers that provide the printed objects with different properties, including toughness, transparency or rubber-like flexibility. The most advanced systems can even use multiple nozzles that allow the combination of different colors and material properties.

This 3D print technology offers many advantages for rapid tooling and prototyping, because it allows users to create realistic and functional prototypes with fine detail and precision. This is currently the most accurate 3D printing technology. It is possible to print with a layer thickness of up to 16 microns; thinner than a human hair!

Names
To this group belong among others the print technologies Material Jetting (MJ), NanoParticale Jetting (NPJ) and Drop on Demand (DOD). This 3D print technology makes use of the 3D print materials Plastic, Metal and Wax.

For more information about 3D print materials (filaments) check out our extensive special here.

Brands
The following brands make among others use of this 3D print technology:

Binder Jetting

This 3D print technology is comparable to the Powder Fusion technique in the way the printer uses thin layers of powder to build up an object. Instead of using a laser that fuses together the layer, in this technique a binder is extruded that binds the powder together.

The process begins when a nozzle distributes the bonding agent and the powder in the first layer of the object. After the first layer of the binder has fused, the printbed is moved slightly down and a new thin layer of powder is spread on top of the object. This process is repeated until the desired object has been completely formed. After the object has been removed from the printbed, excess powder is cleaned from the object and it is coated with a self-adhesive substance in order to make it stronger and resistant to discoloration.

This 3D print technology is used in industrial 3D printing and the most common material is (full-color) sandstone. It is relatively affordable compared to SLS and requires less energy. However, the objects are not as strong.

The ability to print in full color sandstone makes this printing technique a popular choice for maquettes and lifelike sculptures. Another advantage of this method is that the excess of non-molten powder can act as structural support, which eliminates the need for additional support for complex shapes.

Names
Part of this group is among others the printing technology Binder Jetting (BJ). This 3D print technology makes use of the 3D print materials (filaments) (full-color) sandstone and Metal.

For more information about 3D print materials (filaments) check out our extensive special here.

Brands
The following brands make among others use of this 3D print technology:

Sheet lamination

This 3D print technology has already been discovered in 1985, but is now rarely used anymore. This technology creates an object by gluing together several layers of metal, plastic or paper. With a built-in laser a form is shaped.

Names
This group contains among others Laminated Object Modeling (LOM). This 3D printing technology makes use of composites and paper as 3D print materials (filament).

For more information about 3D print materials (filaments) check out our extensive special here.

Brands
The following brands make among others use of this 3D print technology:

  • MCOR
  • Envisiontec
  • Impossible objects
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