3D Printing has the potential to change a vast amount of industries and community spheres. The biggest change it causes is the opportunity for the production of high-class end parts and prototypes in small series, including single pieces.
This liberalization of production already eases the workflow of a variety of creative segments. Moreover, it is on the way to causing a true revolution in others. And with the mass spreading of materials used in 3D Printing, the influence of the technology is yet to become even greater.
"Thanks to the rapid prototyping technology offered by our partner SolidFill and especially the vacuum casting, we get high-quality details which are key for our production!"
3D printing and 3D scanning are about to change a number of industries. More and more people are becoming convinced of their advantages in rapid prototyping, design, engineering, advertising, small series production, and many other areas. However, the foundations of this rapidly-evolving approach lay in the specific technologies they utilize. Here are some of them:
3D Printing Technologies
There are various technologies used for 3D printing on the market. They include FDM; SLS; SLA, MJF, SHS, SLM, Color Jet, Poly Jet, and many more. Each one of these types is suitable for specific, but various applications, and uses multiple materials. The common thing among all technologies is that the main concept of the manufacturing process steps in the construction of elements or units by adding layers of material rather than being cut out of blocks of material (milling and turning). SolidFill's team is experienced in each of these technologies. We are able to recommend the most appropriate for your project.
3D Scanning Technologies
3D scanning technologies make it possible to analyze a physical object, gather information on its shape, size and (if possible) colors and transform it into a 3D model. These technologies eliminate the need to transfer a 2D sketch with specified dimensions to a 3D model or create it from scratch when there is no dimensional data. 3D scanning is an efficient method when you need to analyze complex objects with small details and complex shapes.
Technologies in Detail
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
The most popular 3D printing technology. The details are extra strong, have flexibility, and are resistant to temperatures up to 80-90 ° C. Suitable for functional tests and final products. The result is a good appearance (which is still susceptible to finishing touches), and the layers of laid plastic are distinctive for the technology. FDM technology builds the objects layer by layer from the bottom–up by heating and extracting plastic fibers from an extruder. Before the 3D printing process begins, special software cuts the CAD model in layers, which then are physically built with dimensions between 0.05mm and 0.35 mm. Afterwards, the plastic is heated and applied by the extruder in X and Y coordinates. If necessary, the 3D printer can add a support material during the process to support the construction of the object. When printing is complete, the support material can be removed. Most commonly used materials for FDM are ABS, PLA, and Nylon, which are suitable for prototypes as well as for end products. ABS (acrylonitrile – butadiene – styrene) is sufficiently resistant to external influences, and at the same time is susceptible to further processing. Among the most commonly used support materials is the water-soluble wax or PPSF (polyphenylsulfone). Fused Deposition Modeling is preferred because of the thermal and mechanical resistance of the created products. It is relatively easy to use. It allows for creating elements with thermoplastic qualities at the production level, which have perfect mechanical, thermal, and chemical qualities and can be used in other engineering and manufacturing purposes. Last but not least: this technology is considered for an eco-friendly and sustainable practice. For these reasons, FDM is used in a wide range of industries and activities, including some of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers, the aviation industry, architecture, and the production of small series of end products in multiple sectors. It is particularly appropriate for the production of spare parts when often is needed small amounts or single items in a short period of time. It has applications in the field of design and other creative spheres, the creation and testing of the qualities of conceptual models and functional prototypes, the creation of tools, etc. FDM is also applicable for finishing operations, such as painting, grinding, galvanizing, or vacuum metallisation.
Laser Sintering (SLS, MJF)
SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) or laser sintering is a 3D printing technology in which the shaping of the final three-dimensional products is performed by a laser that manipulates a special powder. It was established in the 80-s of the last century. Similar to the other 3D printing technologies, the SLS also uses a computer (CAD) model which is utilized as a base for the creation of the real object. This is done by a special polymeric powder which is applied in thin layers (around 0.08 mm). After applying each layer, a laser beam passes through the powder and hardens it, following the predefined pattern. After that the next layer is applied and the process repeats. Unlike the Fused Deposition Modeling or other 3D printing technologies, the SLS does not require the use of support structures because the produced objects are completely surrounded by powder.Laser sintering works mainly with polyamide (PA), glass and aluminum-filled polyamide (GF-PA, Alumide), and the appearance of the parts is distinguished by its abrasive structure. The materials are hard, flexible, and can withstand temperatures in the range of 90-130 °C. With this technology, a 3D printer able to create extremely complex shapes that are difficult to produce otherwise. Due to the nature of the SLS technology, there is a wide variety of materials that can be used, including polycarbonate, acrylic-styrene and nylon, as well as ceramics, glass and even aluminum or silver. The main advantages of the Selective Laser Sintering technology are: the good correlation between strength and lightness of the created products, the precision and the high quality of producing, as well as the rich variety of used materials. In addition, it allows color rendering during 3D printing, which extends the possibilities for application. The wide range of materials allows using the Selective Laser Sintering for many different purposes – from conceptual models and functional prototypes, through the production of architectural models and small series of end products or promotional materials, to the creation of spare parts in single pieces. The technology is actively used in numerous industries such as automotive, aviation, medical, and other manufacturing areas. It is also suitable for activities like painting and grinding, as well as for the creation of artistic and other models that require color printing during the printing process.
SLA works with liquid photopolymers. The elements and objects made with this approach stand out with remarkable outlook and meticulous fidelity. Smooth to the touch, the layers of material are almost indistinguishable to the naked eye. The printed objects are durable, slightly flexible, and suitable for functional tests and end products. With this technology 3D printing can produce highly sophisticated small or large elements, with a broad choice of materials.
Digital Light Processing (DLP)
Digital Light Processing (DLP) is a 3D printing technology that has some similarities with the SLA method. However, it was created much later – in the late 80s. One of the differences between them is that this technology works with significantly larger printers. DLP also uses photopolymers, but it treats the source material with a different light source, such as an arc lamp. Like other 3D printing methods, this technology also uses a CAD model that has to be cut into layers to create the final print object. A liquid polymer is used in the process. Printing with a DLP machine is very fast – a layer of the hardened material can be created in just a few seconds. The resolution and robustness of the resulting elements is also impressive. In addition, DLP uses less materials compared to other technologies, including SLA, which results in lower cost for production and less environmental pollution. Digital Light Processing technology is ideal for easy and quick creating and testing of prototypes, conceptual models, spare parts, and marketing materials. It is also used in the medicine, dentistry, jewelry and other areas requiring the creation of precise details, as well as for the production of end products in limited series.
Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
Selective laser melting (SLM) or 3D metal printing is a type of laser sintering, which works with metal - aluminum, stainless steel and other alloys.
Direct laser sintering of metal (DMLS)
Direct laser sintering of metal (DMLS), similar to Selective Laser Melting (SLM), is a type of laser sintering that works with metal - aluminum, stainless steel, and other alloys.
Material Jetting (MJ)
Material Jetting is a relatively uncommon technology for 3D printing. It uses ultraviolet light to process photopolymer material. However, the material is not distributed in layers, as with other technologies, but is instead injected in the form of small drops. Material Jetting allows for the production of very complex and high quality elements with super fine parts. Another great advantage of the technology, however, is that it can create products combining several source materials and with more diverse properties. For example, rubber-like and solid polymers. The advantages and disadvantages described above make the Material Jetting technology suitable for a variety of prototypes and models with a time-limited life.
Color Jet is one of the few technologies that can print multicolor. It works with a material similar to gypsum to the touch and strength and is usually used for architectural models or marketing materials.
PolyJet enables the creation of details and tools with high precision and smoothness of the surface. The high resolution and accuracy of up to 14 microns help to produce thin-walled parts with complex geometry.