Additive manufacturing – 3D printing – is evolving so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up. It doesn’t help that the leading technologies used to transform 3D CAD drawings into physical objects are identified with an alphabet soup of abbreviations, such as FFF, MJP, SLA and DMP. It’s enough to strain your brain!
What you need is a quick guide that recaps the nine most important 3D printing technologies. Here you go! In this guide, we break down these 9 most important 3D printing technologies in plain English. Within this guide you will find helpful illustrations that depict how the material is laid down to form 3D parts. We even list the printers we carry that are compatible with each of these nine 3D printing technologies. Our goal is to help you connect the dots so you can get started faster with professional quality 3D printing and expertise.
The 3D printing revolution for machine tooling is upon us! Advances in printing techniques and materials now make it possible for manufacturers to fabricate parts and assemblies from a variety of plastics, resins and metals.
The industry has responded by growing quickly:
3D printing is currently a $5.1 billion industry with +26% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), compiled by the 2017 Wohler’s Report.
3D printing is a transformational technology; it’s forecasted to become 30% of all manufacturing and will account for $3 trillion in worldwide GDP.
3D metal printing technology is advancing so rapidly that you may not be aware of what’s possible today. From heavy manufacturing and injection molding and to aerospace and automotive, its applications are pretty amazing.
The evolution of metal printing technology
Some of the most recent advancements in 3D metal printing are to the hardware used to print metal parts and prototypes. Traditional methods are getting upgraded. The first is:
Direct Metal Printing (DMP) – DMP uses a laser to selectively heat and fuse a bed of fine metal powder to build up a 3D object in layers. Also referred to as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). DMP printers create chemically pure, fully dense metal parts, delivering accuracy and repeatability of about 20 microns in all three axes. Materials include stainless steel, tool steel, super alloys, non-ferrous alloys, cobalt-chrome, titanium and aluminum.
The Brave New World of the value-priced pro printer
If you’ve been on the fence because you thought the only options for 3D printers were two extremes – high-end units costing $100K and up or inexpensive hobby printers – then it’s time to take another look. Several new printers offer exceptional quality in the price range of $20K to $50K, making 3D printing for design and engineering more affordable than ever.
Only two choices? Not any more.
Perceptions frequently lag reality, especially in fast-moving technologies like additive manufacturing. Many engineers and designers still believe they only have two choices in 3D printing technology:
MultiJet: An ideal entry into additive manufacturing
MultiJet 3D printers are versatile machines, capable of producing many types of parts and assemblies using a wide variety of materials – and doing so affordably. Here are four common application scenarios that demonstrate the incredible versatility of today’s MultiJet printers.
MultiJet Printing (MJP) is a process that uses ultra-fine printhead technology to deposit photocurable polymers (rigid or elastomeric) or casting wax materials, layer by layer.
Getting Started: Materials
Looking at datasheets of 3D printing materials is something like walking into a big box hardware store: Overwhelming choices. Where do I begin? What would work best for my project? That’s why we created this high-level overview of these materials to help you zero in on the most promising ones for your application. We will have a follow-up article focusing on direct metal applications as well.
Part 5 in a Series
Getting Started: STL Files
It’s every engineer’s worst nightmare: You’ve invested many hours perfecting the design of a part on your organization’s CAD system, and now you’re printing your first 3D model. The anticipation is driving you half crazy.
But your excitement quickly changes to bewilderment when you pull the part out of the build chamber. Part of your model has collapsed under its own weight, and you have no idea why.
Part 4 in a Series
Getting Started: Software
Owning a 3D printer without a high-quality 3D CAD design is something like buying a car but having no idea how to put fuel into it.
Your 3D printer probably comes bundled with workflow software, the “brain” that translates CAD drawings into layers of plastic or metal in its build chamber. But to create a 3D representation of the part you want to build, you need design software.
Part 3 in a Series
Getting Started: Choosing Your First Printer
Congratulations! You’ve decided to invest in a 3D printer. Now it’s time to do your homework, to ensure that you end up with the right equipment for your needs. Here are some tips to help you choose wisely.
You’ll need to consider several key factors in making that decision. This helpful starter will outline key things to decide on prior to making that first purchase.
Part 2 in a Series
Getting Started: Researching & Benchmarking Parts
If you have recently decided it’s time to invest in 3D printing, it’s time build your business case for it. This article outlines the questions you should ask before doing so. If you’re serious about investing in 3D printing, we recommend starting here.
You need to build a value proposition that clearly defines the benefits and advantages it will bring to your operations.
Part 1 in a Series
Big Systems is proud to partner with Markforged to host an informative and interactive session on the exciting possibilities of 3D Metal Printing (ADAM).
Topics will include:
The Markforged metal printing process – ADAM: Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing
Steps to creating metal parts: design – print – sinter – use
Processes involved in creating metal parts: extrusion printing; use of thermoplastic metal powder materials, part debind and convection furnace curing.
This helpful Q&A will help you better understand when and why to use a service bureau to print 3D parts:
As 3D printing technology and materials continue to advance at a rapid but steady pace, many manufacturers are wondering how to get started with it. Fortunately, an ecosystem of service bureaus has sprung up to help companies turn ideas into finished parts, produce high-volume runs of production parts and experiment with new materials and finishes – without having to make a major capital investment.
For companies that have already invested in 3D printers, service bureaus can play an important support role.
Workshop Highlights: 6 Successful Applications
At a recent Big Systems 3D metal printing workshop, presenters emphasized that this technology is quickly moving from prototyping part designs to creating production parts. They outlined six areas where customers are seeing success using this cutting-edge technology:
Want to learn what’s possible with 3D metal printing for your applications?
Explore new opportunities for product design and fabrication with today’s versatile 3D MultiJet printers
If you’re looking for ways to accelerate your product development or tool and pattern designs, then you ought to consider investing in a 3D MultiJet printer. These speedy workhorses can help you iterate through multiple designs and bring new products to market faster – without breaking the bank.