3D Printing, the common term for additive manufacturing, is the process of creating an object from a 3D model by building the part layer by layer. In contrast to traditional manufacturing (subtractive manufacturing) which must start with a larger object and remove material, additive manufacturing can produce far more intricate parts while producing less waste material. Check out our page of Awesome Examples to see some good uses for 3D printing.
The most common types of 3D printing technology are Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) for plastic filament, Stereolithography (SLA) for liquid resins, and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) for powdered metals. A brief description of some of the various 3D printing technologies is listed below, but a quick Google search will provide you with much more detail if you are interested in any of the technologies. Each process has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): The most common, and cheapest, form of 3D printing, FDM works by forcing a solid strand of material (usually plastic), called filament, through a heated nozzle called an extruder. The machine prints the part layer by layer by drawing each layer’s pattern with the extruded filament. A common analogy is to think of the process like a computer controlled hot glue gun with a very small hole at the end. Because of their cheap price and ease of operation, these are the printers primarily used by the club.
Stereolithography (SLA): Unlike FDM, SLA starts with a vat of liquid photopolymer resin. Each layer is drawn using an ultraviolet laser to cure the resin into a solid state. These machines are more expensive but produce much finer detail with the laser than can be achieved by extruding material through a hole.
Digital Light Processing (DLP): DLP 3D printing is similar to SLA in that it uses a UV curable liquid resin as the starting material. A DLP printer uses the intense UV light created from DLP projector bulbs to cure an entire layer of resin at once instead of drawing the pattern using a laser.
Plaster Powder (PP): PP 3D printing uses a fine plaster powder as the basis to form the object. Each layer is made by laying down a thin layer of powder and applying a binder to the powder in selective areas to fuse the material together. When the print is finished the excess powder is removed from the part.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS): In DMLS, a thin layer of metal powder is laid over the part being constructed and subsequently sintered together using a high powered laser. This is the most common form of metal 3D printing.
Electron Beam Melting (EBM): EBM is similar to DMLS except that it uses an electron beam to melt the powder together instead of a laser to sinter each layer.
Selective Laser Melting (SLM):
Selective Heat Sintering (SHS):
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS):
Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication (EBF3):
Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM):