3D printers are the latest technology that excites people. Scientists and engineers across the world have been working on this unique technology since 1983. 3D printing involves building parts layer by layer. Every printer differs in the method they form metal parts and plastic, the material used, durability, surface finish, manufacturing cost and speed.

Today there are various types of 3D printing methods used. Some of them are mentioned below.

Fused Deposition Modeling

Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM is one of the most popular 3D printers. This was developed by Scott Crump way back in the 1980s. Various other 3D printing companies embraced this technology under various distinct names. With the FDM technology, it is not only possible to print prototypes but also actual products like plastic gears, lego and much more.

Printers that use this technology layers the object from the bottom by extruding and heating the thermoplastic filament. This process is very similar to the process of stereolithography. Apart from a thermoplastic filament, the printer might extrude the support material also.

The printing process includes heating the thermoplastic till it reaches its melting point and then extruding it out of the nozzle. The slicer software runs on a computer that is connected to the printer. The software translated the measurement of the object into the X, Y, Z coordinates. It also controls the nozzle and the foundation follows the route which is calculated by the software.

The printing time using this technology depends on the complexity and the size of the model. Small objects take less time to print as compared to bigger objects.

Stereolithography (SLA)

Another printing method is SLA or stereolithography. The application and idea of this printer are unique. This printer works with a liquid plastic which after some time hardens and forms a solid object. Objects printed by SLA generally have a smoother surface however its quality largely depends on the quality of the printer SLA printer you are using. The time required to print an object depends on the complexity and size of the 3D model. If the items are small and less complex they will print in 6 to 8 hours. However, if the object is big and complex it might take up to several days to print the object.

Digital light processing (DLP)

DLP is another type of 3D printing which is very similar to stereolithography. This technology was developed in 1987 and it became very popular after it was used in the manufacture of projectors.

The technology uses digital micromirrors which are laid out on a semiconductor chip. DLP technology is found in film projectors, mobile phones and 3D printing. The only difference between SLA and DLP technology is that DLP requires an additional lighting source while SLA doesn’t.

The LCD panel is another important component of the DLP that is applied to the surface of the 3D printing layer. The substance that is used for printing is a liquid plastic resin which sets in a resin container. The resins quickly harden when it is exposed to photons. The DLP printing speed is quicker than other 3D printers.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

The last printer on our list is the Selective Laser Sintering or SLS. The SLS technology uses the laser as its power supply which forms durable objects. SLS technology was built by Carl declared in the late 1980s. A very prominent difference between SLS and SLA is that SLS uses powdered material instead of liquid resin.

Another distinct feature of SLS printers is that it doesn’t use additional support structures because the printing object is surrounded by powder. The printing process begins with the creation of a CAD (computer-aided design) file which is converted to .Sal format. The printing material could be ceramics, nylon, glass or even metals such as silver, steel and aluminium. This technology is very popular for printing customised objects. SLS is used mostly by manufacturers instead of amateurs because it requires high powered lasers which are quite expensive. However, there are some startup’s that are working on affordable SLS printers.


Selecting the right type of printer depends on the advantages and disadvantages associated with each type of printer. Other factors such as durability and price are also a deciding factor in selecting the printer.