The 3D printing process builds a three-dimensional object from a CAD model layer by layer, called additive manufacturing.  Previously 3D printing techniques were considered suitable only for prototyping, but now 3D printing is considered viable for production.  There are many materials 3D printing can use such as:

  • ABS Plastic
  • Nylon
  • Carbon Fiber
  • Steel
  • Titanium
  • Other materials depending on the type of printer. 

There are many different types of printing, each serving a different purpose in the 3D printing world.  The most common types of 3D printing are SLA, MJF, FDM, and SLS printing. 

SLA: Stereolithography

SLA technology is one of the oldest 3D printing technologies used for fast prototyping.  Typically people use this technology if they need high precision, fine detiled parts.  The surface quality of parts is superior to most other 3D printing technologies without adding a surface finish. 

MJF: Multi Jet Fusion

MJF technology uses a polymer powder bed and a fusing agent that is dispensed on the powder which is then sintered with an infrared energy source.  It offers a high dimensional accuracy and does not require support structures thus allowing free form models without any support removal marks.

FDM: Fused Deposition Modeling

With FDM technology, objects are made by depositing melted material in a predetermined path layer by layer.  It is one of the most widely used 3D printing techniques and is found in the increasingly popular home desktop 3D printers as well as much larger industrial versions.  It can produce high quality parts from durable materials, with dimensional accuracy suitable for most prototyping, modeling or low-volume manufacturing requirements.

SLS: Selective Laser Sintering

SLS technology is similar to MJF in that it uses a powder bed, but this method uses a laser to directly melt the powder without an additional fusing agent, and builds up the object layer by layer as the bed lowers and additional powder is added.  This method of 3D printing is considered suitable for prototypes or functional parts.