What You Need to Know About Purchasing a 3D Printer

A 3D printer offers you the ability to create a model, a toy, a piece of clothing, or a mechanical part in your home or business, even when you may have minimal manufacturing knowledge. The 3D printing process is commonly known as additive manufacturing.

What are the main types of 3D printers?

The most common types of 3D printing technologies include:

  • Stereolithiography: Stereolithiography uses a UV laser beam to draw a shape or design on the surface of photopolymer resin. This resin changes its properties in response to light.
  • Digital Light Processing: Digital light processing is similar to stereolithiography in the way that it uses light to shape layers of photopolymer material. However, it is based on the same technology used in movie projectors.
  • Fused Deposition Modeling: Fused deposition modeling builds an object one layer at a time by extruding or depositing material onto a platform. This process is similar to another type of 3D printing technology, fused filament fabrication.
  • Powder Bed Printing: This type of printing uses a fine powder to build an object. Electron-beam melting, selective laser melting, and selective laser sintering are all examples of this technique.

What are the main types of filaments?

The filament is the material used by extrusion 3D printers. Most printers will only work with certain types of material, so you should know the difference between them. Each has different properties.

  • Polylactic Acid: A common printing material, PLA is mostly used for toys, prototypes, and other easy-to-print objects. It does not require a heated bed and is highly resistant to warping.
  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene: ABS is stronger and more tolerant to heat than PLA and therefore used in a wider range of goods.
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate: TPEs, like hermoplastic polyurethane and thermoplastic copolyester, are a group of plastics with more flexible and durable properties.
  • Polycarbonate: Polycarbonate is one of the strongest types of material. It gives the object a transparent appearance.
  • Others: Other types of material that can be 3D printed include wood, nylon, metal, ceramics, wax, acrylic, carbon fiber, and much more.

How does the 3D printer know what to produce?

The object is created from a computer-aided design, or CAD for short. The CAD is typically produced via 3D scanners or digital cameras and contain information about the object's appearance, dimensions, and shape. CAD software may determine the quality of design.