Charles W. Hull invented 3D printing in the mid-80s. This revolutionized the way we see printing, which was 2D in a commercial sense for centuries before.
Nowadays, there are several types of 3D printers. However, only a few remain popular today, while the others have drifted away to the sidelines. In this post, we’ll take a brief look at the five most popular types of 3D printers that designers and manufacturers use today.
We’ll start with what we perceive currently as the most popular 3D printing technology. Then we’ll leave it for you to decide how useful the other types are.
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
The FDM 3D printer, as we said, has to be one of the most popular types that people use these days. It’s an affordable technology and many people use it for reliable additive manufacturing.
Not only will FDM 3D printers allow you to develop prototypes, but you can also create finished products. For instance, you can print such things as plastic gears and lego.
The printer types make objects by printing from the up, layer by layer. They heat a thermoplastic filament that extrudes and then is printed. It may also extrude other support materials.
Toymakers, food producers, and carmakers make extensive use of FDM 3D printers these days. Plus, many other industries use this tech for prototyping. In the end, many consider this printing type as easy to use and eco-friendly.
- Stereolithography (SLA)
When considering different types of 3d printers, SLA is one of the earliest types that many still use today. And, an SLA 3D printer doesn’t print how you would expect.
Most of us consider printers, both 2D and 3D to extrude some ink or other material onto a surface. Instead, an SLA printer will use another sophisticated technique using liquid plastic. And it takes a while, along with specific processes for the plastic to cool.
One of the best applications for this type of printing is to model parts for engineering. It’s also great for various types of prototyping.
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
An SLS 3D printer uses laser technology to power the 3D printing process. It’s pretty similar wot SLA printing, but with one main difference. Instead of SLS using liquid plastic, it uses powders in a vat.
The great thing about this type of printing is that you don’t need any other support materials other than the powder. Yet, since this technology needs high-power lasers, it’s not often seen in the amateur realm of 3D printing.
- Digital Light Processing(DLP)
DLP is similar to SLA. It makes use of digital micromirrors that manufacturers lay on a semiconductor chip.
It might interest you that manufacturers use this technology in film projectors and cell phones, as well as 3D printing. The major difference between DLP and SLA is that DLP needs a powerful source of light.
- Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
Many people see this type of 3D printing as an SLS subcategory. Yet, this isn’t quite true.
While SLS does not fully melt the material it’s printing, SLM does. It uses a metal powder and a powerful laser to form a solid print object.
Types of 3D Printers Explained
So now you should have a better grasp of what types of 3D printers are out there. As we said, FDM is coming on leaps and bounds in recent years as being affordable, cost-efficient, and widely available. However, the others have specific uses.
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