3D printing is revolutionary – already it has been said that it can change the world. As it stands, the global market forecast for printing in 3D will see it hit $16.2 billion by 2018. It is shaking up the whole production line, with businesses jumping on at every opportunity they get. However, you may be confused, like many, over the different types of 3D printing that are offered, and you may be wondering which one is the best for you and your business. But, don’t worry, as we’re here to help.
While looking up the 3D printing service that you want to go with, you’ll no doubt have noticed that there are a number of varying technologies relating to 3D printing that currently exist. Some exist to rapidly manufacture production-ready parts, some are suited to the development stage for rapid 3D prototyping, and others are quite simply just for fun. However, we’re going to focus on the more common ones that will be most relevant to your needs. There are three major manufacturing methods. Firstly, there is Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and then there is Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA), and, finally, the very common Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). You now know what they are, but what do they mean? Is one better than another? There is no right or wrong choice, as each technique offers advantages and disadvantages. It is all about working out what is going to be right for you. One may be suited to a particular project while another may be suited to something else. Over the next three paragraphs, we’re going to go over what each of these techniques entails, the advantages and disadvantages they bring, and what kind of work they are and aren’t suited for.
So the first of our three that could be suited to your custom 3D printing job is FDM or Fused Deposition Modelling. As it reveals in the name, it’s routinely used to produce 3D modelling and prototype components. It is, however, less commonly used to create production parts. Essentially, FDM applies thermoplastics layer by layer from the bottom up within the printer by using a nozzle that is heated. Because of the material, it cools rather fast and then hardens to fit the data of your 3D CAD models. A good printing professional will also sand and polish the plastic afterwards for free, as it may be a little bit rough around the edges. FDM’s main advantage comes from that fact that it offers an incredibly quick print time. And while it can reach high-resolution quality, its downside is that the final product can warp, bubble and may appear a little rough. For any final products, it’s best to go with another method. That being said, the advantages are huge, as it’s cheap, fast and strong enough, which is why it fits the bill for any prototyping and modelling that your business is doing.
In terms of 3D printing UK wide, SLA technologies, also known as the mouthful that is Stereolithography Apparatus, are always improving. Indeed, the field of SLA printing has even lead to it being called an ‘arms race’. It’s an exciting method that uses a focused light, UV or a laser that cures and solidifies liquid resin in, again, a layer-by-layer basis, but this time it usually does so in a top to bottom manner. However, it is not unknown to be the other way around too – such is the variety of SLA technologies. Unlike FDM, the product comes out very smooth after the post-processing has been completed. It is used by a wide variety of professionals, such as engineers, artists, medical professionals, vehicle manufacturers and consumer product manufacturers. Why? Well, this type of material is perfectly set-up if you want your product to look the part. It can be painted too, enabling you to use this for prototype parts and models. However, there are a few drawbacks; it’s brittle, slow to build and more expensive than FDM. However, the quality is to an incredibly high finish and makes it worth every penny.
Lastly, we have Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which is the fastest growing 3D design and printing technology. It can be used to make prototypes and finished products too, and, therefore, it’s popular with a whole range of people, from hobbyists to high-end business owners. During the SLS process, small particles of powdered material, such as plastic, ceramic or glass, are fused together by heat from a high-power laser to create a 3D printed object. A range of colours are also available for the material too, however, it can be painted and dried like SLA. As mentioned, they can be used as production parts depending on the application. SLS is useful for companies and industries that only require a small selection of objects but printed using high-quality materials. Its strength lies in its ability to perfectly print any geometrical form with absolutely no defects due to the high-powered lasers that are used. The advantages and disadvantages, outside of its precision, are largely similar to SLA. So there you have it – the three most commonly used printing techniques. But which one is better? Well, why not ask Microworkshops. We’re a group of experienced printing professionals offering 3D printing London-wide, and we’re more than happy to help you reach an informed decision.
Hopefully, you will now have a better understanding regarding what you want and need from 3D printing. It has the potential to subvert traditional production lines in a manner that is both more time and cost-efficient. At Microworkshops, you’ll be glad to know that we offer all three of the above methods. We believe we’re London’s number one printing service. Why? Because, unlike others, we won’t charge you for fast track prints, and we’ve also got the expertise to back up our claims. So visit us at http://microworkshops.co.uk/ or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help you.