How Can We Select Between 3d Printing Technologies?

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I believe that you watched Mission Impossible before and were amazed by how sophisticated their technologies were. In Mission Impossible 3, Ethan Hunt used a 3D printer to create a mask that looked just like Owen Davian, the movie’s antagonist. Or in “The Cloverfield Paradox,” Jensen used a 3-D printer to create a weapon to take over the ship.

We all wished to have these technologies in our houses. We all were truly amazed by how this machine can create something that you can imagine. I know the above examples are a little exaggeration.

I mean, it is movies, but 3D printers can make almost anything from a simple mug, tripods, USB cable holder, etc. I believe that the only limitation will be the designer’s imagination.

The main objective of the following article is to introduce the three important 3D printing technologies that are mostly used today, namely FDM, SLA, and SLS. I will also present The advantages and disadvantages of using these technologies so you can choose which one is the best for your objectives.

How Can We Select Between 3d Printing Technologies

An Introduction to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Its Features

This type of 3D printing technology usually will yield brittle products and needs special filaments to create functional parts. Also, the use of a variety of colors using this technology is possible.

How does FDM technology work?

First, the designer creates the model 3D modeling software, and then the software creates numerous layers of that model.

After that, the 3D printer filament will be heated up, melted, and come out of the nozzle. This process will be done layer upon layer until the model is finished. The designer will decide the thickness of each layer to create higher or lower resolution.

The Size of the 3-D model

Since the size of the final product/model will matter for the users, you should remember that the flowing sizes can be made using FDM printing technology:

Technology Name Size of the 3-D Model
FDM Small Size – Length: 120 mm, Width: 120, and Height: 200 mm
Large Size: Length: 500 mm, Width: 500, and Height: 500 mm
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Where can FDM be used?

Many industries such as automobile, medical, and maritime have been using this manufacturing process to print various prototypes and even the ultimate parts.

Advantages of FDM can be briefly said as follows:

  • You can create the most accurate geometric forms without ease.
  • Although the final design can be brittle, they are highly durable.
  • A wide range of thermoplastics is available for this manufacturing technology.

An Introduction to Stereo Lithography (SLA) and Its Features

Let’s just say that SLA printing technology or stereolithography is the first 3D printing technology that was invented by the famous inventor “Chuck Hull” in 1986. It is interesting to note that this technology is just one of the inventions of Chuck Hull, and he is known for his 60 patents in the US.

The printers equipped with SLA printing technology are all using the same feature: light source. This light source can be anything from a laser or a projector. Using this technology, the 3-D printer will be able to shape the melted resins into the desired plastic model.

About the printer, the printer with SLA technology is equipped with two horizontal and vertical mirrors or galvos that are installed into the machine. These mirrors are installed so they can constantly radiate beams at the resins within the special tank installed in the machine. Note that the laser type is a solid-state laser.

How does FDM technology work, and how to create a 3D model?

  • Just like any other 3-D printing technology, the engineer will make their 3D model using CAD software, and the final design will be saved in STL or OBJ format. Next, the engineer will determine the printer settings and the number of layers or slices of the model.
  • Now, as mentioned above, these galvos will send beams towards the vat, and this way, the liquid inside will be cured and solidified, creating the cross-section of the model.
  • Rinsing time. After the above 2 steps are finished, any remaining resin will be washed away using isopropyl alcohol. If you were not satisfied with the strength and stability of the 3D model, post-curing would help you realize such an objective.
  • Now that the 3D model is finished, you can easily paint it. Also, if you are assembling a certain model, you can use such technology.

Advantages of SLS can be briefly said as follows

  • Highest resolution and accuracy in comparison to other 3D model printing technologies
  • Capable of creating a smooth surface and remove any remaining debris from the surface
  • Businesses can use this technology to prototype the parts and product designs due to the fact they will cost less.

Note: The only disadvantage of the SLA technology lies in the laser accuracy. Since the printers will need to detect the cross-section of the model, you can expect a greater period for finishing your model.

An Introduction to Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Its Features

The inventor of this technology is Dr. Carl R. Deckard, who invented this manufacturing process while he was just a student in the university.

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Despite the above two 3D printing this technologies, selective laser sintering is not using resin (liquid) or filament (solid), and instead, polymer powder is the main material of these 3D printers. Due to its lower costs during recent years, this technology is attracting quite an audience. This type of printer is also relying on the laser to build the 3D model.

How does SLS technology work?

After the engineering developed the model and transferred the data to the printer using wireless or cabala connection, the 3D printer will print the model as follows:

First, the polymer powder will be heated up until it melts. Then, thin layers of liquid polymer will be transferred onto a build platform. The thickness of the layers is 0.1 usually.

Like the SLA, this technology is also equipped with a pair of galvos, meaning that there are two glasses installed horizontally and vertically in the printer. This way, the laser beam will be able to scan the model’s surface and create the cross-section of the model by solidifying the liquid.

Since the 3D printers create the model layer upon layer, the recoating blade will deposit a fresh layer of the material into the machine. The laser binds the material together to create the cross-section of the model.

Like the above step repeats, all the model parts are created and connected to form the final design.

Advantages of SLS can be briefly said as follows

  • The printers of this type will be able to create durable and strong models.
  • Capable of creating complex forms
  • No support will be required. This way, you will be able to spare more time for post-processing.
  • The printers are equipped with computer-controlled CO2 lasers

However, there are also some disadvantages to using this 3D printer which is briefly explained as follows:

  • Not cost-effective at all. Providing such a printer will cost more than $200,000. Also, you may need to pay an amount of 50 to 60 dollars for the materials.
  • In case the printer heats up, you will need to wait at least 12 hours for the next round of production.


The above three technologies are just among the numerous others that I didn’t mention.

However, the above three are most common among users and businesses. Your choice must be based on your budget, time requirements, and of course, the model you want to choose, which I believe that I covered all here.