3D Printing History
3D printing technology has been around since the 1970’s but has recently made headlines in mainstream news for it’s dramatic impact on engineering, research, and medical industries around the globe. With new developments in 3D technology, a hobbyist community emerged and desktop 3D printers are now available for people to use in their homes. So what is this 3D printing wizardry all about how does the technology behind 3D printers work?
There are numerous types of printers that range from plug-and-play desktop 3D printers, to the industrial $100k+ machines. There are two main types of desktop printers, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printer and Stereolithography (SLA) printers. Although they both create a physical product from a 3D model, the technologies are quite different. Let’s look at how FDM vs. SLA 3D printing differs.
FDM stands for fused deposition modeling, which simply means that during printing, material is deposited in single layers that fuse together to create a 3D printed object.
How it works:
- A 3D Model file (.stl file) is imported into a program called a slicer. For FDM printing, we like Simplify3D because they have all the features necessary to create a great looking print. This program will “slice” the object into layers and create a code that tells the printer which settings to use for the design and where each layer will go.
- Send the “Gcode” created by the slicer to the 3D printer
- Plastic filament is fed through a heated nozzle where the material is melted and deposited onto a build platform.
- As layers are deposited onto the platform, each successive layer fuses on top of the other until the 3D object is complete.
Pros and Cons
FDM printing is one of the most popular forms of 3D printing for home use. This is because they are more affordable and typically range in price from ($200-$4,000).
Although they require more mechanical and software tinkering to run optimally, they can produce models with moderate amounts of detail. FDM printers are limited in the intricacy of the details they can produce so for finer models, SLA machines are a better choice.
Stereolithography (SLA) printing was first invented in the 1980’s and works by curing resin with specific wavelengths of light. The light solidifies the liquid via a process called photopolymerization and builds objects layer by layer. It is one of the most accurate forms of 3D printing.
There are two main types of SLA Technology: laser based or projection based (DLP)
Laser SLA 3D Printing
How it Works
- Just like with FDM, we need a 3D model and a slicer program.
- Resin is held in a resin tank.
- The build platform lowers into the tank and a UV laser positioned by two galvanometers (actuated mirrors) projects a design onto the resin, curing it.
- As the liquid resin hardens, it creates the layers of the object. This process is repeated and the build platform continues to raise until all the layers of the object are complete.
Pros and Cons
These printers are known for creating more detailed, crisp designs because of the more precise positioning capabilities of galvanometers. SLA prints also have a chemical bond between layers that occurs when connecting photopolymers. This creates much stronger parts that are water-tight. The resulting objects are more professional looking than most things created with an FDM printer. You can also print with different kinds of resin which will produce objects with different physical properties. For example, Formlabs created a tough resin which is stronger than regular resin for functional applications.
Since this process creates such detailed and accurate prints, it comes with a higher cost and SLA printers are more expensive to run and maintain than FDM printers. To learn more about 3D printer specs and what they mean, check out this blog.
T-rex by jidapa_kerdsiri printed on a Form 2
DLP SLA Technology
DLP and Laser-based SLA are very similar. The major difference between them is the light source. Instead of UV lasers, DLP technology uses a projector below the resin tank to project entire layers at once. DLP also creates highly detailed prints but is often restrictive in terms of build volume.
The Form 2 Desktop SLA 3D Printer
Since most SLA printers are industrial and cost upwards of $5,000, Formlabs Form 2 is focused on providing the highest quality desktop 3D printer. For the first time, it’s affordable for consumers to purchase an SLA printer for their home. If you decide to order a 3D printer, you can find awesome 3D printable files for it on Pinshape. Check out the latest and greatest 3D printable designs now!