What are the Main 3D Printing Technologies Available

5 Sep

When we are talking about 3D printing you should know that there are multiple different technologies available, the main difference is in the material and how the layers are built. We are going to quickly cover the three mostly used ones, though there are other technologies also available. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is an additive manufacturing process or 3D printing technology that uses melting of thermoplastic material by heating and then extruding it to create the object layer by layer. This is the most widespread and affordable technology currently available though it is not the most flexible and precise one at least the more affordable consumer 3D printers, the fact that it is cheaper and easy to use is what has helped it spread a lot.

Stereolithography (SLA) is a 3D printing technology used for producing 3D models layer by layer by curing a photo-reactive resin with a UV laser. This technology is considered more expensive mostly due to the price of the photopolymer and the hardware required to cure it and does require some extra steps after the model is printed before it is usable, however it also produces higher detail level. SLA does also print support structures for more complex geometry models as FDM does.

Selective laser sintering (SLS) is another 3D printeing process similar to FDM that builds three dimensional objects by using a laser to selectively sinter (heat and fuse) a powdered material instead of thermoplastic like in the case of FDM. The main advantage that SLS has is that it does not require support structures to be printed, because the part being printed is surrounded by unsintered powder at all times, making it easier to print more complex geometry.

Apart from FDM, SLA and SLS 3D printing technologies there are quite a few alternatives available that can work with different materials and produce 3D prints from thermoplastics, nylon, photopolymers, different metal alloys and even edible things like sugar. But if you want to get into 3D printing with an affordable solution the fused deposition modeling-based 3D printers are probably the best choice.

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