Types of 3D Printers or Printing Overview

Types of 3D Printers

Before you know anything else you should know the types of 3d printers process. This will really help you in understanding how third dimensional printing work. Here is a very short introduction to them.

These printers are almost the same with slight differences. Here, we will mainly discuss about the types that you will buy. So, the highly professional ones (the ones used for 3d printing body parts or internal or things like that) will be excluded from our list.

1. Stereolithography or SLA:

It’s the most refined way of 3D replicating. Stereolithography works on the basis of resin and laser. It creates extremely detailed replication of a digital replication. In most of the cases the SLA printers end up with things that have smoother and stronger finish. You can also make both hard and flexible things. We should clear here that almost all the top end 3D printers work on this process.

Stereolithography or SLA

The printer is made of three main parts, A metal build platform, a resin tank and a laser beneath the clear glass. The whole thing comes inside a glass and metal casing. After you input the digital design in the printer, the build platform comes down inside the resin tank filled with resin.

The laser moves back and forth according to the design and hardens the liquid resin. The laser on the resin creates a chemical bond and it makes the bond really strong on the printed thing. The build platform gradually rises up while the thing is being created layer by layer.

Once done, the thing is taken out. The supports (additional removable parts that are created to support the whole thing) are taken out. At last the whole thing is dipped and washed in rubbing alcohol to get a smoother finished product.

This is the ideal way of making and replicating a 3D thing that is used by most of the professionals, mostly for making working prototypes. The level of finishing it provides is ideal for professional purposes. You will easily find the visible difference between the finished product of a FDM and a SLA printer.

This model is not ideal for your home actually. First of all the printers cost five to ten times than a FDM printer. Secondly, resin is the raw material for this kind of printer which is also costly.

2. Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM:

These are the most popular and cheapest 3D printing method. It’s a layer additive manufacturing system, using different types of production grade thermoplastic materials for making working parts, prototypes and almost anything that does not have metal.

Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM

The FDM printers can also make high quality detailed replications with excellent weight and strength ratio. The process starts with inputting the 3D design (mostly CAD files). The design is sliced into thin layers by the printer and depending on these layers; the printer will build up the thing. Then the unit pulls the ABS or PC or PPSF threads from the spool and heats it up. The FDM printer works from down to up but things are printed here on a heated platform.

Instead of any kind of lasers, the FDM printers use nozzle (two or more nozzles on top end printers, one for printing the support materials and another one for the actual thermoplastic) the replicated thing is then gradually built up layer by layer. Once done, you have to take out the product and detach the support materials. After that you can do different things to get the finishing touch. Sand papering, rubbing alcohol, a little use of knife can give the printed thing a SLA printer finish.

Now, we know this article is focused on personal 3D printers. On that note, we have to say that it’s the ideal one for home use because it’s affordable for everyone (well, the lower models actually. For the specialized, multi nuzzled and stable professional 3D Printers you have to have a budget above 1500$). Also, the raw materials are cheaper and the printing process is not messy at all.

You can easily DIY your own 3D printer and that will cost you minimum 300$ where you can easily buy a cheap functioning 3D printer with only 200$ or so. The models that we have picked for you in our review are all FDM engines. We think that it’s the perfect option for you if you are looking for an entry level third dimension printer.

3. Laminated object manufacturing or LOM:

From these point we will be talking about industrial level 3D printers that are only used in labs, Costs a lot and the production cost is also huge but they literally come up with the most detailed solid results at the end.

Laminated object manufacturing or LOM
LOM is one of the popular methods of 3D printing that produces astonishing results but it’s a complex process actually. The LOM printers also work on the principles of layer manufacturing but instead of using any resin or thermoplastic materials it uses layers and layers of plastic sheets.

When a digital design is input, the printer glues layers of sheet up to the height of the object that is to be printed. Then lasers start working and cut the whole object to the shape that you desire. The end result is also really astonishing with flawless details and high quality finishing. But there are some problems involved in this process. You can’t print anything hollow with this baby.

Also, if you look the price of the printer and the production cost this really makes it a professional one. The one that is ideal for an office but still not to a personal level. The biggest benefit of this model is that you can have your thing in different colors and that is just great. As it has an actual 2D printing technology inbuilt, you can also use it to 2D print on your 3D thing!

The LOM still has a lot of room for improvements and hopefully their price will drop on the coming years. We think that it could be a complete 3D printer for regular use. Although it has been a pioneer on the third dimension printer market but even today we think that the process wastes a lot of plastic and the whole thing is quite messy.

4. Digital Light Processing or DLP:

We don’t have much to talk about it actually. Digital Light Process is just like the SLA technology with a slight difference in the printing head. Instead of lasers, the DLP uses light that is basically sort of beams of electrons.

Digital Light Processing or DLP

The best thing about this process is that it’s faster than any other 3D Printing Process. The image of the object is projected inside the resin tank. The same light creates a bond inside the resin. It creates super high details like SLM but this thing is not that much suitable for your home.

Resin is not that innocent as a material. Due to its toxic nature it should not be used in homes. Also, designing models for it and operating the printer is not that easy. The thing is very much popular for production purpose as it can make many things within a short time. But there are some problems with it also. You can only use a single type of material with these printers.

Other than these type of printers and printing there are some industrial level 3D printing machines. Like,

  • Selective Laser Sintering or SLS
  • Selective Laser Melting or SLM

5. Electronic Beam Melting or EBM

All these models are called powder bed models that need a build area entirely covered with a plastic based powder. Then through light, binding agent or laser, the object is printed inside and taken out after the molding is done.

Selective Laser Melting or SLM

As our concern in this article is about the 3D printers that are for home or personal office use, We are not going in details with these powder based models as they are so costly and dirty that you won’t want them in your home.

But they are great for generating complex models with extreme high details. Also, you get to print metals in SLM and EBM printers. Now, that’s just insane. These PBF models have a lot of applications for making high end professional components of race cars, airplanes, scientific research, transplantable bones or skull and what not. These printers are so huge that you might have to dedicate an entire room if you want to have it in your home.

Well, we think that this should be enough for you if you really want to know more about the types than we should probably add some links for you later on.

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