Knowing the different 3D printing processes will help you choose and decide which one is suitable for a specific project. It is important to understand that they differ in many aspects such as printing technologies and materials being used.
To have better knowledge about it, here is 5 common types of 3D printing processes with their advantages and limitations. Read on below.
1. Material extrusion
It is also known as Fused Filament Fabrication or Fused Deposition Modelling. It is a 3D printing technique that uses a type of material that is fed through an extruding nozzle. This material is heated and deposited onto the build platform layer by layer to form an 3d part.
This process is popular and widely used because of its availability, user-friendly method and quality. FDM printing technology is an example of material extrusion.
Here are some of the advantages of material extrusion and its limitations.
- It has an extensive range of materials to be used.
- Its mechanics are simple and easy to modify. This is because of the availability of open source designs.
- Parts that require many tool changes can be produced without further interventions with material extrusion.
- It is suitable to use with costly materials since it has almost zero production-based material waste.
- Complex geometries such as steep overhangs might be difficult to produce.
- Requires support material and post-processing for geometries such as acute overhang angles and bridges.
2. Vat polymerization
This process uses liquid photopolymer resin to create 3D parts. The resin is cured by an ultraviolet light while a platform moves the object downwards for each layer.
Some common forms of vat polymerization process include SLA and DLP. To learn more about vat polymerization, here are its notable advantages and limitations.
- It has a high level of accuracy and a good surface finish.
- It is a relatively quick process.
- Vat polymerization is known to be very expensive.
- It has a long post-processing time.
- It uses limited material (photo-resins).
- It requires post-curing to make parts strong enough for structural use.
3. Powder bed fusion
This technique uses either a laser or electron beam to melt and fuse the material together. This process is commonly used in metal printing. It has a large range of metal material selection which includes stainless steel, titanium and aluminium etc.
DMLS and EBM are examples of powder bed fusion for metals. Powder bed fusion also has some advantages and limitations. Below are some of them.
- It is not an expensive printing process.
- It is suitable to use for visual models and prototypes.
- It has a wide range of material options.
- It has limitations on the size selections.
- It lacks structural properties in its materials.
- Its finish will depend on the powder grain size.
4. Material jetting
In this process, droplets of material are jetted (or selectively deposited and cured) on the build platform. Photopolymers or wax droplets are exposed to light layer by layer until an object is created. A popular example of material jetting is "Drop on Demand".
Material jetting may not be as popular and widely used as the others. Nevertheless, it has its own list of advantages and limitations. The following are some of them.
- It has low waste materials since it uses high accuracy of deposition of droplets.
- It is possible to use multiple materials and colour with this process.
- Materials are limited to polymers and waxes.
- Supporting material is required.
5. Binder jetting
This process is a similar 3c printing technology to SLS. But instead of sinter powder, binder droplets are deposited to produce an 3d object. Its binder is usually in liquid form and build materials are in powder form. It uses an adhesive to bond powder layers.
The materials that can be used with binder jetting process are glass and metals such as stainless steel and polymers (eg. ABS, PA and PC). Below are some of its advantages and limitations.
- There is a wide range of different colours available.
- It is also a faster process compared to other processes.
- It uses a large range of materials such as polymers, metals and ceramics.
- It is not suitable for structural parts since it uses binder material.
- Post-processing time can be very long.
Different 3D printing processes can be confusing. With so many acronyms, one may mistakenly name a 3D printing technology.
It is important to have enough knowledge about the common 3D printing process so that it will be easier to determine which one is suitable for your project. They may be similar in some ways but they are different processes of 3D printing. With the help of this guide, you will be well-informed when it comes to 3D printing processes.
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