The 3 Most Widely Used Types of 3D Printing Technologies

The most simple but confusing way to explain someone the 3D printing techniques of our time would be to just spit out all the different acronyms with no explanation at all. Some people mistake all these words for some electronic type of music or even associate them with different types of drugs.
But my goal here is not to mislead you into this abyss of confusion, in fact, I’ll briefly explain the most used types of technologies, with enough information so that you become familiar with the 3D printing world.

Almost 90% of the time 3D printer FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) is the technology used in domestic environments. Although FFF is not entirely a category on its own, it resembles a lot of the characteristics of its main technology called FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). Like for example, melting the filament and depositing it onto the build platform of the 3D Printer, however, it uses plastic filaments, either PLA (Polylactic Acid) or ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) as printing materials.

The second and oldest technology is SLA (Stereolithography), that goes hand in hand with the DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology. Their main printing material is a photoreactive (sensitive to light) resin. While the material is being layered (printed) onto the surface, it is simultaneously cured layer by layer with a light source, which makes printing speeds unmatchable from 6 to 8 hours for a small piece, and several days for a couple of meters for a long one. And all this is possible because two processes (curing and printing/ layering) are being done at once, so there’s no waiting period for the resin to harden after the printing is done.

Powder (mostly metal powder) plays a major role as a printing material in SLS (selective laser sintering), SLM (Selective Laser Melting) and EBM (Electron Beam Melting) technologies. As the name suggests, in SLS printing a laser is used to trace the pattern layer by layer on top of a print bed filled with powder. The print bed is lowered on the Z axis after the completion of each layer. This type of technology fits in a very specific niche, where its use is focused more towards various industry-based categories. It provides the needed strength and stability since it’s primary printing material is metal powder.

Bottom line is, the 3D printer FFF is the most popular option in households, while on the other hand, SLA is better for making tiny details more precisely. When it comes to SLS or any other laser-oriented technology, what you need to know is that they are mostly used in industrial settings.