What Are The Different Types Of 3D Printing Technology?


3D Printing | Additive Manufacturing | Rapid Prototyping | Fabricating

Before reading this page we recommend your read, "What Is A 3D Printer?","3D Printer Anatomy","What Are 3D Printer Filaments?"

 Extrusion (Fused Deposition Modeling)

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is perhaps the most affordable form of 3D Printing and is the most popular 3D Printing process among hobbyists, enthusiasts, and even small businesses. FDM is the process of extruding (or forcing through) 3D Printer Filament

A RepRap Open Source FFF 3D Printer

through a Print Nozzle (Extruder), similar to how a tube of icing comes out onto a birthday cake. The Filament is placed down in Layers, one on top of another, until the object is complete. If you have even baked before you’re sort of a human FDM 3D Printer. These Filaments are known as Thermoplastics.he most commonly used 3D Printer Filaments are ABS and PLA, with some other specialty Filaments, such as the ones from Taulman, becoming more popular every day. FDM is actually a trademarked term and a 3D Printing process developed by the Stratasys Corporation. In The Open Source world, most refer to this process as Fused Filament Fabrication or FFF for short. FDM and FFF mean the same thing but to avoid any potential legal issues, those using this process to develop their own 3D Printers and 3D Printing related technology use the term FFF instead.

You can also see a robotic automobile welder converted to a 3D Printer to Print metal in mid-air here!
Watch FDM In Action!

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Wire 3D Printing Process

Electron Beam Fabrication (EBF)

The Electron Beam Fabrication (EBF) process can work with almost any metal alloy and was developed by NASA. A metal alloy is simply a combination of a solid/pure metal like iron or gold, with another metal or substance. For example, steel isn’t a pure metal

Cathode Ray (Electron Beam)

(meaning consisting on just one susbstance), Steel is an alloy made up of a mixture of Iron and Carbon. Fabrication is another term for construction; to manufacture something. An Electron is a negatively charged sub-atomic particle. EBF focuses a beam (constant stream/flow) of Electrons. The beam gathers the positively charged particles of a metal/metal alloy and fuses them together in a manner similar to welding, but does so in Layers similar to the FDM process. Parts and complete objects made with the EBF process usually only need some finishing work done on them, generally for cosmetic appearance and and/or to get rid of any extra undesired material. You can discover more about Electrons here. You can also go here to learn more about how an Electron Beam works.

NASA Introduces EBF For Manufacturing In Space

Granular 3D Printing Process

There are a number of technologies that use the Granular Process, we will present the most widely used

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

(Click To Enlarge) DMLS 3D Printer by Solid Concepts

Similar to EBF, Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), can use almost any metal alloy as its Filament. Sintering is essentially welding parts together using a Laser. The metals are used in a powder form; essentially, metal dust is melted by the use of a Laser. The metal powder is placed into a container and a special Print Bed picks up the necessary amount of powder for the Laser to melt. The Print Bed moves around until the necessary Layers are made. DMLS is known for its high accuracy as well as its high level of detail, which is very useful for intricate and complex objects. DMLS is used extensively in the dental and medical industries for the manufacture of precise and complex surgical tools. Stainless Steel and Titanium are two of the metals most commonly used with this 3D Printing process. Solid Concepts is a forerunner in DMLS and actually 3D Printed the world’s first full metal gun using this process.

Solid Concepts, A DMLS Leader, Presents DMLS Technology

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Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

Electron Beam Melting (EBM) is very similar to EBF but is used exclusively with Titanium Alloys. EBM also differs from EBF in that it uses metal powder to manufacture very dense metal parts which are incredibly strong, whereas the EBM process always takes


place in a vacuum (space void of air). This is important for Titanium, as it is highly reactive to oxygen when melted. The ARCAM company is the developer of EBM technology and competes with EBF made equipment and implants for the medical industry. EBM can be described as a modern version of using fire to melt and mold metal parts and tools. EBM is rapidly gaining ground, as the soild parts this process creates are free from stress point (gaps), making the parts inherently stronger and more reliable under stress.


More About Arcam’s EBM Technology

Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is used primarily with Titanium and Cobalt Chrome Alloys,  Stainless Steel, and Aluminum. SLM is sometimes called Laser Sintering which is inaccurate as Sintering does not necessarily involve the metal or other material to be fully melted while SLM does. SLM is specifically for non-solid objects; SLM is best for objects with voids and channels, such as a metal part that would have a liquid pushed through is at some point. SLM-made parts aren’t as strong as EBM-made parts due to the parts not being solid but SLM does allow for the manufacture of complex, multi-jointed parts that are stronger than their welded counterparts. In the video below 3D Systems (a Stratasys company) introduces SLM. Take note that the video states Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which again, is essentially the same technology. It is best to think of SLS as being under SLM as both involve the melting of the Filament using a Laser, except SLM is used exclusively with metal and metal alloys requiring the material to be completely melted while SLS deals mostly in partially melted materials such as Thermoplastics.

SLM/SLS Presented by 3D Systems

Selective Heat Sintering (SHS)

In the Selective Heat Sintering (SHS) process the Print Bed moves instead of the Print Head. SHS works with Thermoplastic powder. The powder is placed on the Print Bed and the heated Print Head comes into contact with the powder building the object Layer by Layer. When the Layer is complete the Print Bed moves down and a mechanism similar to a person using a paint roller to paint a wall, rolls a new Layer of powder waiting to be heated and formed. SHS is similar to SLS but the equipment is far less expensive as these 3D Printers do not use Lasers. SHS is best for creating concepts and 3D blueprints rather than finished products. It appears that SHS 3D Printers are made exclusively by the Blueprinter company.

How A Selective Heat Sintering (SHS) 3D Printer Works (NO SOUND!)

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) uses materials in their powdered form and uses the heat of a Laser to bind them together into solid objects. SLS is like welding metal and other material powders together while SLM is like forging/metal forging which fully melts the material and forms it into the desired object. Though metal parts made via SLS are not as strong as the completely solid metal parts made via SLM, the SLS process can also be used with Thermoplastics and Ceramic Powders while SLM is used with metals and metal alloys only.

3D Systems Explains Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

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Powder Bed and Inkjet Head 3D Printing

Plaster-based 3D Printing (PP)

Plaster is a mixture of dry powder and water to form a paste, similar to adding water to baby powder. Heat and/or air  is then applied to the paste evaporating a certain amount of water which causes the paste to harden. Plaster-based 3D Printing (PP) is also knows as Binder Jetting. PP uses inkjet heads similar to those on regular home (2D) Printers and can 3D Print Plaster in full color. PP is excellent for artistic projects, especially those in structures, like a wall in a house. In the PP process, sections are Printed first, like a waffle. The Print Bed holds the powdered Plaster and the Print head deposits a binding material in the desired shape into the sections. Plaster powder is then placed over that Layer and the process is performed again until the object is complete. Unused powder is removed when the object is complete.

An Enthusiasts Presents His Self-built PP 3D Printer

Laminated 3D Printing

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

Though considered an Additive Manufacturing Process since the materials used are placed down Layer by Layer, Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) also includes Cutting, which is an element of the Subtractive Manufacturing Processes. LOM is used with paper, metal foil, glass and plastic film. The materials are coated with an adhesive (sticky material) which binds the Layers together. After binding the material is then cut to the desired shape with a blade or Laser.

Glass Manufacture Using The LOM Process

Light Polymerised 3D Printing

Stereolithography (SLA)

The Pegasus Laser SLA 3D Printer | Learn More

Light Polymerised 3D Printing involves the use of Photopolymers. Photopolymers are polymers which change their properties when exposed to light. In the case of Stereolithography (SLA), the Polymer hardens when it is exposed to light. The most common form of light used is an UltraViolet (UV) Laser. These polymers that can be manipulated using light intensity are said to be curable (able to be manipulated). SLA is one of the fastest forms of 3D Printing and can produce strong parts and objects, but in the past has not been widely adopted among hobbyists and small business due to the high cost of the Printers. Now, with the personal 3D Printing revolution, tinkerers and entrepreneurs have been improving the technology in ways to specifically make it more cost-effective. You can check here for some affordable SLA 3D Printers.

Watch SLA In Action With The Low Cost “Pegasus Touch Laser SLA 3D Printer!”

 Digital Light Processing (DLP)

3D Printing via Digital Light Processing (DLP), is very similar to SLA. The only real notable difference is that SLA normally uses UV or other form of Laser while DLP uses the light emitted from devices such as projectors, specifically DLP projectors. Essentially,

Image | DLP Projector

using the combination of a computer to manage a source of light (the Xenon bulbs commonly used in higher quality projectors) can be considered DLP. This makes DLP very versatile as there are many types of light bulbs that produce light a various frequencies/intensities. This versatility and ability to use relatively common DLP projectors makes DLP  much more cost effective than the historically expensive SLA process. It should be noted that DLP can also use Lasers as the light source which would of course increase the expense of the 3D Printer.

Envisiontec Explains DLP

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Happy Printing!

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