Fused Deposition Modeling
The most common and cheapest technology, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a manufacturing method that provides easy use for quick and reliable results. This would be the type of technology used for mass production of customer-oriented items or for the enhancement of supply chains. Two main limitations of this technology would be some structural constraints due to the deposition process and the high dimensional tolerance which can range at best from 0.10 mm to 0.05mm in some industrial printers.
SLA prints items from a resin bed that rises to selectively solidify the desired structure with the use of photochemical processes. The main advantage of this technology is the fact that dimensional tolerance and feature resolution are unparalleled. Layer resolution can easily achieve 0.025 mm with most printers and so, SLA 3D printing is especially well adapted to print prototypes or other types of models in the phase of “proof of concept”. A limiting factor would be the few mediums in which SLA printing can be done since only photochemical resins are available.
Selective laser sintering
SLS is one of the increasingly popular technology in the last decade. Its ingenious way of layering will be imitated and adapted to other subsequent additive manufacturing technologies. Its core principle in its manufacturing technique is the overlaying of the atomized medium, usually nylon or another polyamide, that is subsequently fused with the use of high powered lasers. Consequently, the final product is encased in a bed of powder and requiring no support, giving the possibility of high overhanging angles complex geometries. One big advantage of SLS over FDM or SLA is the ability to create fully functional mechanical components with separate moving parts. The one possible circumstantial handicap of this technology would be its inability of manufacturing items with partial infill. Beyond that, SLS is one of the most complete manufacturing technologies out there.
PolyJet technology is one of the more versatile and expensive forms of 3D printing. Capable of using 100+ printing mediums, it can combine multiple materials within a single print. Functioning under the similar engineering foundations as FDM, Polyjet improves on the concept. It can incorporate features such rubber-like grips, hinges or opaque interiors enclosed in clear exterior housings. Another feature that is exclusive to PolyJet additive printers is their capability of incorporating multiple colors in a print, in contrast, other technologies are usually limited to monochrome production. Due to costs, PolyJet capabilities are best used for tooling manufacturing or visually complex prototyping needing high dimensional accuracy.
Selective Laser Melting
SLM is the leading technology in metallic additive manufacturing, printing from aluminum to titanium superalloys, this method is one of the most complete metal manufacturing technology out there. SLM layers material dust consecutively and sinters the needed material area to the solid structure beneath with its laser which reduces the need for structural supports. Giving a cleaner finish, this also allows printers of the kind to print with minimal technical restrictions. This technology is especially well suited for industrial, automotive, aerospace and medical purposes.
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