Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, refers to the creation of three-dimensional objects by adding material layer by layer. Since its inception, AM has rapidly evolved with the development of new techniques, materials, and applications.
Nowadays, AM is used in various industries, including aerospace, automotive, healthcare, and fashion. AM techniques can be broadly categorised into several categories, each with its unique characteristics and applications.
1. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
FDM is one of the most widely used AM techniques. It involves extruding a thermoplastic material through a nozzle onto a build platform. The material is melted as it passes through the nozzle and solidifies as it cools, forming a solid layer. FDM is commonly used to create prototypes, low-volume parts, and tooling.
2. Stereolithography (SLA)
SLA is an AM technique that uses a vat of liquid photopolymer resin and a laser to create solid components. The laser selectively hardens the resin layer by layer, forming a three-dimensional object. SLA is known for producing high-resolution parts with excellent surface finish. It is commonly used in the medical and dental industries.
3. Digital Light Processing (DLP)
DLP is similar to SLA but uses a projector instead of a laser to cure the resin. The projector displays an image of each layer onto the resin, which is then cured by UV light. This allows for faster printing speeds and the ability to print multiple parts at once. DLP is also known for producing high-resolution components with smooth surface finishes.
4. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
SLS utilises a high-powered laser to selectively fuse powdered material, typically metal or plastic, into a solid layer. The build platform is lowered after each layer is formed, and the process is repeated until the object is complete. SLS is used in industrial applications to produce complex and functional parts, like aerospace components and medical implants.
5. Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
SLM is similar to SLS but uses metal powder instead of plastic. The laser melts the powder, fusing it into a solid layer. SLM has many use cases, such as in aerospace, automotive, and medical industries, for producing complex, high-performance components. It also allows for the creation of intricate geometries and structures that would be impossible to start using traditional manufacturing methods.
6. Binder Jetting (BJ)
BJ is an AM technique that involves depositing a liquid binding agent onto a layer of powdered material. The binder selectively solidifies the powder, forming a solid layer. The process is repeated until the object is complete. BJ is commonly used for producing sand moulds and cores for metal casting, as well as for manufacturing ceramic and metal parts.
7. Material Jetting (MJ)
MJ involves the deposition of material in droplet form through a print head nozzle. The material is typically liquid or semi-solid and is solidified through various means, such as UV light or heat. This process is commonly used for producing multi-material and highly-detailed parts, as well as for applications requiring high accuracy and resolution.
8. Directed Energy Deposition (DED)
DED is an additive manufacturing process that utilises a focused energy source, like a laser or electron beam, to melt and fuse the material together. The material is typically in the form of a powder or wire and is added layer by layer to build up the final part.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has changed how we manufacture and produce parts and products. With various processes available, including FDM, SLA, SLS, DLP, EBM, MJ, and DED, there is a 3D printing technology suitable for nearly any need. From prototyping to production, 3D printing offers significant advantages over traditional manufacturing processes, including reduced waste, faster turnaround times, and the ability to produce highly-detailed and complex parts.
3D APAC is a leading provider of 3D printing services in Australia, Asia-Pacific, and beyond. With a focus on delivering high-quality, cost-effective solutions, we offer a range of 3D printing technologies and materials, as well as design and engineering support.
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