4 Types of “3D Printing”

by Joseph Flaherty on February 24, 2009

Replicator Video

3D printing is the sexiest of all Mass Customization technologies. Lost in all that glamour is the fact that “3D Printing” is an umbrella term that covers four distinct manufacturing technologies. All are “Additive Fabrication” processes that create objects by adding material in thin layers until a product is completed. Each technology addresses the challege differently with accompanying benefits and drawbacks. The following videos help illustrate some of the differences in the technology.

1. 3D Printing

3D printing is an inexact moniker, but usually refers to object made using ink jet technology in three dimensions. As it’s name implies it is a close cousin to traditional 2D printing. These printers work by layering powder a powder substrate and binding it with pigmented glue. This is the only 3D printing technology capable of printing in full color. The major manufacturer of 3D printing equipment is ZCorp.

2. Fused Deposition Modeling

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) creates models by heating and extruding a filament of plastic material. Stratasys commercialized this technology and owns the trademark. It is one of the cheaper forms of 3D printing with systems starting at $15K.

3. Stereolithography

Stereolithography produces models by tracing a beam of UV light over a photosensitive pool of liquid. Over time the part is lowered into the bath and the final product is produced. The major benefit of this 3D printing technology is the high level of detail and surface finish it enables. Stereolithography technology also provides the most interesting product reveal. Once the part is done printing it is lifted elegantly out of the photopolymer solution. It is a dramatic finish compared to the dust off or breaking of supports other systems require. The Viper line of stereolithography apparatuses (SLA’s) manufactured by 3D Systems produce the highest quality 3D prints available.

4. Selective Laser Sintering

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is the awesome union of 3D printing and Lasers. The process is similar to stereolithography replacing the UV light with a laser and a vat of liquid with a powdered base. The major benefit of SLS is the ability to produce parts in a variety of materials ranging from plastics to ceraminc to metals. In some case SLS technology can be used in lieu of more expensive tooling processes. The Sinterstation by 3D Systems is an example of this technology in practice.

In addition, two other 3D printing technologies are maturing, but neither is in wide use yet.

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) machines cut and glue thousands of sheets of material together to form solids. MCOR Technology has released a new 3D printer that promises to drastically reduce the cost of 3D printing by using standard A4 paper as the build material.

Electron Beam Melting (EBM) is similar to SLS technology except the process is far more exacting and capable of producing implant grade parts to be used in orthopedic surgery. The final product is higher quality and better embodies the traditional material characteristics making it a true replacement for standard manufacturing techniques. Arcam is the leading the charge in this exciting field.

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  • http://www.solidsmack.com Josh M

    I'm loving the 650. wish I could use it. I'm also loving the word 'fabbing' to capture all of these into one descriptive simple term. yeah?

  • http://www.replicatorinc.com Joseph Flaherty

    The full color is definitely awesome. I think my Spore character was produced on the 650. Great coverage from Orlando, BTW, glad to hear 3D printing was so big.

  • http://www.setpointusa.com/content/index.asp?page=Robot_Integration_Automated_Machines&paid=103 x-ray imaging

    Very refreshing information. I am so amazed at the wonders of 3-D imaging and printing. Most of the time that I look upon a 3D image, I always get stupefied in thinking that its the real thing!

  • http://www.emo-site.com/ emo

    I really did not know that exists 4 Types of “3D Printing”. Each type has the scope.
    And such division easily speaks. 3D Printing rather new direction and I think that yet all about it know.

  • http://www.bradfordsbakers.com Hampers

    Superb hitech way of printing. But I think these type of printing can't be done at home, I mean the cost and the machines are for big commercial businesses use only, am I correct? I have a home based printing business and quite interested with these type but then again, I might not achieve the ROI target because of the cost…but still I'm lucky to have known these types (for future)

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    These are some great innovator ways to make 3d images. Never really thought about them much, except that one way.

  • http://unilinkinc.com/craden.php Craden

    WOW that was really awesome, you can create and print what you want that was so cool, 3d printing rocks and so does 650

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    650 is really amazing, well just come to think of a new way to print a personalized design amazing isn't it.

  • Gajini

    3D printers are of great use in jewellery designing. I use it often & is quite successful.

  • Mohan66

    3D printers are the best.

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    This is a great informative post! Thanks for posting it for us:)

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    The major benefit of SLS is the ability to produce parts in a variety of materials ranging from plastics to ceraminc to metals. In some case SLS technology can be used in lieu of more expensive tooling processes.

    Thanks and Regards

  • http://www.ntteuropeonline.com/managedhosting.html Managed Hosting

    As it’s name implies it is a close cousin to traditional 2D printing. These printers work by layering powder a powder substrate and binding it with pigmented glue!

  • Kesia757

    It sound's good that 3D printer's are also available.But can you please tell me How it become possible?What things you kept in mind while designing.
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  • http://www.goarticles.com/cgi-bin/showa.cgi?C=1829301 Cellulite

    Wow such a amazing techniques shown above. Specially the 3-d printer. Thanks for sharing information

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    I love this site all the posts are so great:)

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    Wow what an advanced technologies these are! I liked all the videos given above of these advance technologies and specially the 3D printing technology.

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    Wow with the help of this printer we can now print a personalized design and I really liked the videos..very informative post..thanks..Teeth Whitening Teeth Whitening

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    Nice collection of videos.I never saw these kind of printing technology.Thanks for sharing with us.
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    I am really ecstactic about this offer…thanks for the post and I think that muust rush and grab it… :)

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    Now a days a lot of Mass Customization technologies are being used.One of them is 3d printing.it is a great technology.I would love to have more knowledge about this field.
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  • jennycraig

    I read your post . it was amazing.Your thought process is wonderful.The way you tell about things is awesome. i always wait for your posts. They are inspiring and helpful.Thanks for sharing your information and stories.

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    It could include laser cutting, CNC machining, etc. 3D printing is inexact, but easier to grasp than “additive fabrication”. In any case a 3D printer by any other name is still awesome

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