All About 3d Printers

A 3d printer is a device that creates objects by adding layers to a build plate, either plastic, resin, metal, pizza, etc. These kinds of printers also happen to take a while longer than their 2d relatives, but the idea is the same, make something by adding layer after layer, also known as additive manufacturing.

What makes a 3d printer, a 3d printer?

A 3d printer is defined by 3 things,

  1. it is adding stuff, not removing it.
  2. it is making things in layers, not all at once.
  3. it is in 3d.

So, a laser cutter? it removes stuff, no. it makes things in layers, yes, it is in 3d, no. So a laser cutter is not a 3d printer, neither are CNC mills, Pancake “3d Printers” and many other things that may seem like a 3d printer at first. The opposite is true too, such as cupcake or pizza decorating, adding stuff, true, making things in layers, true, and in 3d, true!

What are the types of 3d printers? What type should i get?

There are 3 main types of 3d printers, these are the FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) or FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) type printers, that extrude molten material onto a print bed, usually the material is plastic. Then there is the SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) type printers, that melt a powder, usually nylon or metal with a laser, the powder usually being in a vat, with more added after every layer. Then the third type is SLA (Stereolithography) printers, that have a UV cured resin, and a system to shine a directed UV beam onto the resin from below, the print bed is upside down, and over time the print rises out of the resin.

1. FDM/FFF Type Printers

For the consumer market, the FDM/FFF type printer has become very popular due to it being one of the most widely available, cheap & easy to use printers on the market. This type of printer has a roll of extruded plastic, a bit like the plastic on the whipper snipper cord. This plastic is fed into the hotend and nozzle by the extruder gears and is pasted ontop of the build platform and the previous layers in a shape controlled by stepper motors on the X, Y and Z axis.

2. SLS Type Printers

For the industry, the SLS Type printer is used due to it not needing any support structure, and for the speed it can print at. This type of printer has two vats, one that has the base layer of powder, and is moved up and down at very slow rates, and the other that supplies more powder for the next layer. The powder is made even by a device that pushes the powder across both vats and evens it out before the laser sinters the next layer

3. SLA Type Printers

For those who want the most extreme detail they can get with any printer, the SLA type printer is used due to the small amount of space it and its resin takes up and its high level of detail. This type of printer has one tub with a see through film on the bottom that has a UV image projected onto the resin, either with a laser, a projector or a LCD screen.


Wikipedia – 3D Printing Processes