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When choosing a company for 3D printing, the processes they provide are very important. There are many different types of 3D printing that are available to choose from. Here are some of the most common ones that are used:
Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
EBM is an additive manufacturing technique for metal parts. During the process, the metal is fully melted. This leads to this technique being slower and more expensive than many of the other 3D printing techniques. The parts that come out of this process are very strong and can be used as the final product. Materials which can be used in EBM included titanium, copper, aluminum, Ti-6Al-4V, CoCr and more. This technique has been used to create medical implants and aerospace components.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
This technique has been made popular by the entrance lower end printers directed at consumers. Companies such as Makerbot, 3D Systems, Airwolf and even Dremel have introduced low cost printers and allow PLA and ABS plastic models to be made. Professional printers still dominate this space when it comes to features, accuracy and resolution.
The process works the same for all of the different printers. The resin is melted and forced through and extruder. The extruded material is used to build the part layer by layer. Each layer fuses to the previous layer to create a mechanically sound part. Use of multiple extruders allows for more than one color parts to be made quickly and efficiently. In many cases, the same type of material that will be used for the final production can be used in FDM process.
Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
LOM uses paper, plastic or metal which has been coated with an adhesive. During the process, two actions take place for each layer. First, a heated roller passes over the part to bind each of the layers to the one before. Next a laser or knife is used to cut the layer to the correct geometry. This process is repeated for each layer until the part is finished. The advantage of LOM is it’s low coast and ability to print big parts from a variety of materials. The final product can be sanded and sealed to increase accuracy and durability.
SLA is slightly different from FDM. Where FDM melts the material and places layers on top of each other as they cool, SLA starts with a liquid resin and uses a laser to cure each layer. This is the oldest 3D printing technique. The surface quality is usually better than that of the FDM part but requires some post processing or time to cure the part. This method allows for great resolution of the parts and is used extensively for prototyping. There are many different SLA materials to choose from depending on the needs of your part. One of the huge advantages of SLA is the ability to use transparent materials. These materials are made specifically for the SLA process and in most cases won’t translate to other production methods.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
SLS, like stereolithography and fused deposition modeling builds the part layer by layer. Unlike SLA and FDM, selective laser sintering does not require support structures. The manufacturing process consists of a powdered resin that is sintered together using a high power laser. Part and surrounding powder is then covered with more powder and the process is repeated. With this technique, the part is always supported by the surrounding powder and therefore does not required the supports. Materials that can be used for this method are quite diverse and include plastics, metals and even glass and ceramics.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
This is basically the same as SLS but able to do metal. In order to be able to sinter the metal, a higher power laser is required which increase both the cost of the machine and the parts that are produced.