Which is additive manufacturing technology right for your product?
We have already established that there are many different types of 3D printers based on the process by which they print objects, the manufacturing materials they can work with and their features. There are also many different brands of 3D printers and they come in many sizes. In fact, we also established the fact that a person following an internet tutorial can build his/her own custom-made 3D printer at low costs. In this article, we will elaborate more on the differences between some of the most common 3D printers around and how some might work better than others for specific cases.
The first one in our list should be the granddaddy of 3D printers: Stereolithography (SLA). SLA was created in the early 80’s and it is still a popular 3D printing method in spite of its limitations. It uses layers and layers of a special liquid which hardens when exposed to UV light. On average it provides pretty smooth results at low costs, but it all depends on the quality of the printer used and the STL file used for printing.
Another type of 3D printer which has risen as one of the most popular nowadays is the Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) based printer. It is similar to the SLA in the fact that objects are built by layers from the bottom up, but it differs from it in the material it uses.
FDM works with a plastic filament which is molten and shaped by the printer. It is very cost effective and can be found in many different places ranging from schools and universities to small businesses everywhere. It works very fast and it can make very durable objects at very cheap costs.
In contrast, there are other types of 3D printers which are not as popular. For instance, Electronic Beam Melting (EBM) is yet another type of 3D printing which is used to create metal parts/objects by fully melting a metal powder using an electron beam to create layers and layers of the object at very high temperatures. It is not a particularly popular type of 3D printer due to the fact that it is very expensive and slow. It has very limited functionality and its uses are mostly reserved for the creation of medical prosthetics and implants and parts in the aerospace field.
There are many other types of 3D printers: Digital Light Processing (DLP), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM), Binder Jetting (BJ) and Material Jetting (MJ) among others. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages, some are cheaper than other and some provide better results in very specific areas. The smartest thing to do before buying a 3D printer would be to study the pros and cons of every type of printer before buying one, taking into consideration what would be the right choice for the development of your product.