Layer-by-layer building techniques are referred to as 3D printing. Plastic and metal parts are formed differently by each machine, as are material selection, finish, durability, speed of production, and cost.
3D printing includes several types, including:
- Stratigraphic laser lithography (SLA)
- The Selective Laser Sintering method (SLS)
- Modeling by fused deposition (FDM)
- The Digital Light Processing (DLP)
- Fusion of multiple jets (MJF)
- Sintering of metal with direct metal lasers (DMLS)
- Melting of electron beams (EBM)
It is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each 3D printing process and map those attributes to the needs of your application. First, let’s look at the role of 3D printing in product development, followed by the types of 3D printing and the advantages of each.
Rapid prototyping with 3D printing
3D printing is most commonly used for prototyping. The capability to manufacture a single part quickly allows product developers to validate and share ideas in a cost-effective manner. Your prototype’s purpose will determine which 3D Printing Central Coast technology will be most beneficial. From simple physical models to functional test parts, additive manufacturing can be used for a wide range of prototypes.
Three-D printing: Five things to consider
In most cases, selecting a 3D printing process is not an easy decision. In determining which 3D printing technology will meet customer needs, we consistently point to these five key criteria:
- Creating a budget
- A requirement for mechanics
- Choosing the right materials
Processes for 3D printing polymer
In the following section are some examples of common plastic 3D printing processes, as well as when they can be most useful to designers, engineers, and product developers.
Stratigraphic laser lithography (SLA)
3D printing originated from stereolithography (SLA). SLA printers produce parts with high levels of detail, smooth surfaces, and tight tolerances. As well as looking nice, SLA parts with quality surface finishes can aid in the part’s functionality, such as testing assembly fit, for instance. There are many applications of this technology in the medical industry, including anatomical models and microfluidics. 3D Systems manufactures Vipers, ProJets, and iPros 3D printers used for SLA parts.
The Selective Laser Sintering method (SLS)
By using selective laser sintering (SLS), nylon-based powders are melted together into solid plastic. A SLS part is made from thermoplastic, which makes it durable, functionally testable, and supports living hinges and snap-fits. Surfaces are rougher on SL parts, but parts are stronger than SL. Because SLS does not require support structures, you can nest multiple parts into one build, which means it can handle larger quantities of parts than other 3D printing processes. Injection-molded parts are often prototyped with SLS parts. We use 3D systems’ sPro140 machines for our SLS printers.
The PolyJet process is another plastic 3D printing method with a twist. It is capable of fabricating parts with multiple properties, such as colors and materials. Prototypes of elastomeric or overmolded parts can be created using the technology. Our recommendation is to use SLS or SL if you’re working with a rigid plastic – it’s more economical. PolyJet can save you from having to invest in tooling early in the development cycle if you’re prototyping overmolding or silicone rubber designs. Iterating and validating your designs faster can help you save time and money.
Digital Light Processing (DLP)
SLA and digital light processing both use light to cure liquid resin. The most important difference between DLP and LCD is the use of a digital light projector instead of an LCD UV lasers are used in SLA. DLP 3D printers can therefore image an entire layer of the build all at once, resulting in faster build times. The higher throughput of DLP printing makes it suitable for low-volume production runs of plastic parts, even though it is frequently used for rapid prototyping.