What Are the Different Types of 3D Printers That Exist Today?

Are you interested in trying your hand at 3D printing?

Only a few people know that 3D printing has been around since the 1980s. It’s only recently that the additive manufacturing industry, which includes 3D printers, grew to over 10 billion USD in size. Part of what boosted it is its ability to create supplies medical workers were short on during that period.

Now, 3D printing technology aids more than just the healthcare industry. Engineering, dentistry, jewelry all enjoy what 3D printing has to bring. All this is possible because of the different types of 3D printers on the market today.

Each printer has a unique feature that each industry can take advantage of. To learn about the different printers, read what we’ve prepared below. By doing so, you’ll know which one best suits your needs.

Fused Deposition Modeling

Also known as FDM printers, these are the most common ones today. These printers work via a heated nozzle fitted into its extrusion head. Once the nozzle achieves the ideal temperature, a motor pushes a spool of filament loaded into the machine, melting it as it passes the nozzle.

The extrusion head then follows coordinates loaded onto the printer beforehand. It extrudes more filament on the building plate as it follows the coordinates. Layer by layer, the printer follows the design to completion.

What makes this 3D printer popular is its versatility. You can load any material into the printer, including nylon and carbon fiber.

It’s even possible to build industry-specific creations using unorthodox materials like chocolate or clay. You only need a scanner, like the Einscan HX, to produce a 3D image of an object to use as a reference for the machine.

Stereolithography

SLA printers are the first machines in 3D printing technology. It uses a process called vat polymerization to create objects from a vat of resin. Here, you’ll find two mirrors positioned on the X and Y axis known as galvanometers.

The mirrors guide a solid-state laser through the resin. Selective curing and solidification take place to build the object within the vat. It builds one layer first before raising the object to settle the resin before dipping it back in to build the next layer.

SLA printing produces smooth creations with finer details compared to most 3D printers. It uses photopolymer resins as a fuel source, which the healthcare industry as injections molds.

Digital Light Processing

The downside of SLA printers is that it takes quite a while for them to form one layer. DLP printers can form one layer in a flash, literally.

With DLPs, the resin rests on a digital screen that projects light via LEDs. Some DLP printers use a UV lamp to achieve the same effect. An array of micro-mirrors called the DMD guide the light to follow the pattern in the coordinates.

The digital screen produces flashes of light that harden an entire layer instantly. It uses the heat from the flash to solidify the resin. Since the digital screen has square pixels, it produces voxels, which are rectangular building blocks.

Masked Stereolithography

MSLA printers have more in common with DLP than with SLA printers. It also uses an LED array to project light onto the resin to harden it. Where it differs is that MSLA printers use hundreds of light sources instead of a single-point emitter, like the DLP.

Because of this, MSLA technology has a faster manufacturing process. It can produce multiple objects in the same vat at the same time. Many industries consider MSLA printers the best 3D printer because of this.

Selective Laser Sintering

SLS printers are the first powder bed fusion printers to exist. These printers use thermal energy to manipulate the material in their build area. These materials can be anything from steel to titanium, and even nylon, so long as it’s in powder form.

SLS printers mold the powder like how SLA ones do. They use galvanometers to guide a laser to solidify the object. Once the printer finishes a layer, it pushes it down and places a fresh layer of powder on top.

This type of 3D printing is what’s preferred by the manufacturing industry. It allows them to create objects with complex designs with ease. There’s also a micro selective laser sintering printer to create objects on a tiny scale.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering and Selective Laser Melting

Direct and selective metal laser sintering are the best at creating metal components. The difference between the two is that selective metal printers will melt the powder to fuse them. Direct metal laser sintering only heats them to the point of molecular fusion.

It makes a big difference if you know how to calculate the thermal stress for metals. Regardless of thermal stress, though, you’ll need structural support for metal printing. The weight of the material often causes parts to sag before it sets.

Electron Beam Melting

Where other powder bed fusion printers use heat, EBM printers use electrons. It focuses the electrons as a beam to scan a thin layer of powder. The electrons induce particle fusion and solidify the powder at a faster rate.

Its speed is thanks to the higher energy density that electrons have. The automobile industry often uses these printers for faster mass production. Metal bumpers for pickup trucks and other accessories are among these components.

However, higher energy density means EBM printers have trouble with small objects. They can’t print the finer features of small objects, and layers are often thicker. You can’t count on these to print small components for smartphones and such.

Know the Types of 3D Printers Today

3D printing technology has come a long way since it first entered the scene. Now, the industry offers different types of 3D printers suited for all needs. Grab the best 3D printer and manufacture all that you need today!

The manufacturing industry is still growing to this day. Keep yourself informed and updated by checking out more of our posts and articles. Learn a thing or two and innovate with us today!

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