3D Printing Guide

WHAT DO THESE TECHNICAL TERMS ACTUALLY MEAN?

You know how outstanding 3D printing is and how it can dramatically increase production and get your products onto the market in rapid times. The world of 3D printing, however, can be a complicated one, if you’re not up to speed on what all the technical terms mean. It can appear to be very confusing and daunting, which is why we’ve put together this guide, explaining all the technical terms, to try and makes things clearer for you.

We’ve divided this guide into four parts including: technologies, filaments, components and features. We hope it will help you!

Technologies

Fused Filament Fabrication

Fused Filament Fabrication 3D printers melt plastic. What happens is layer by layer melted plastic is extruded which will create a 3D product. Fused Filament Fabrication or FFF is the most commonly used 3D printing technology.

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

This is exactly the same technology as Fused Filament Fabrication.

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography printers use a liquid plastic (resin) to print objects in a photopolymer process. What happens is a laser is directed across a tray of melted plastic which will cause the melted plastic to solidify. The solid part that has been created is then lifted by the build platform and the tank and is then raised up to the next layer in the process.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering is a process where the smallest particles of thermoplastic powder are fused together by the heat from a laser. Then, layer by layer, models are gradually built up, which will take the form of a 3D product.

MultiJet Printing (MJP)

MultiJet Printing is an inkjet printing process that deposits either photo curable plastic resin or casting wax materials layer by layer, by using piezo print head technology. MJP can be used to create patterns, moulds and parts that boast fine feature details, for a wide range of applications. These 3D printers offer high resolution and are very economical to own and operate. They use a separate, dissolvable support material that ensures easy post processing.

Removing the support material is hands free, which allows even the most delicate of features and complex internal cavities to be cleaned thoroughly, without any damage.

Parts will have a smooth surface finish with MJP technology and can achieve accuracies rivalling SLA, for a wide variety of applications. MJP printers are compatible and you can use standard office electricity, to provide convenient and affordable access to high quality prototypes and manufacturing aids. These printers can print virtually any geometry and will provide you with scalable, high volume throughput.

Direct Metal Printing (DMP)

Direct metal printing is an additive manufacturing technology that enables you to create high quality, complex metal parts from 3D CAD data. In the machine, a high precision laser is directed to metal powder particles. This will selectively build up thin horizontal metal layers, one after the other. This outstanding technology enables you to create metal parts that have challenging geometries that isn’t possible to create using traditional subtractive or casting technologies. There are a variety of functional metals that can be printed, from prototypes to production series, of up to 20,000 units.

You can achieve the industry’s best surface finished parts with outstanding accuracy. The complex and thin walled structures allows for lower part weight.

With DMP technology you can achieve small and extremely complex shapes, without the need for tooling.

ColourJet Printing (CJP)

Thanks to CJP technology you can create vibrant, full colour concept models, architectural models and demonstration models.

CJP is an additive manufacturing technology that includes two major components including core and binder. The Core material is spread in thin layers over the build platform with a roller. Once each layer has been spread, colour binder is selectively jetted, from inkjet print heads. This will then cause the core to solidify. The build platform then lowers with every subsequent layer, which is spread and printed. This creates full colour, three dimensional models.

Parts can be printed in colour, standard white or additionally, they can be clear coated. This will add a hard, smooth coating or wax coating, which will the smooth out the surface of the part.

Materials

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

ABS is one of the most commonly used filaments. It boasts good impact resistance and is strong, which ensures a long life. It has a high melting point and is the ideal material for producing parts for machines.

PLA (Polylactic Acid)

PLA is softer than ABS and can be printed on a cold surface. PLA is highly environmentally friendly as it is bio degradable. It is much easier to work with too. If PLA is exposed to heat, it will deform.

Nylon

Nylon is incredibly strong and is much stronger than PLA and ABS. It is highly flexible and is very cheap to purchase.  However, it’s important to note that only specialised 3D printers will support nylon.

Resin

Resin is liquid plastic and it is converted to solid plastic by the use of an ultraviolet light. It has a similar texture to ABS but overall it boasts greater details.

Thermoplastic Powder

This is a filament supported by SLS  3D printers. What happens during the process is thin layers of plastic powder are sintered and are built up to form a part. Thermoplastic powder boasts exceptional details and is cost effective too. The 3D printers that support thermoplastic powder are targeted to the higher end of the market.

Features

Build Volume

The build volume refers to the size and models that can be printed in just one sitting. The bigger the volume, the more parts you can print in one go.

Connectivity

Connectivity refers to how the 3D printer connects to a computer or a network. It also refers to how you provide your printer with data. Just five years ago the majority of 3D printers accepted SD or USB. Most 3D printers now feature Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as well as USB and SD.

Layer Height

This is the thickness of each layer a 3D printer can print. Layer height is a good indication of print quality. The thinner the layer, the better the detail will be.

Layer resolution

Layer resolution is basically the same as layer height. Printing at a minimum layer will provide you with a highly detailed model. The best commercial 3D printers can print at 0.02mm or even less.

Print Speed

Print speed is obviously the speed at which a 3D printer can print. Many factors can influence print speed including the material, geometry and the technology being use that’s being used.

Well, there you have it, our useful 3D printing guide. We hope it has helped you learn more about the world of 3D printing. It can be very daunting but hopefully, after reading through this guide, you understand all the technical terms better than when you started.

Get in touch to discuss how 3D printing could help you.

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