Slideshow

In Pictures: 3D printing - How does it really work?

Here are the nine most common 3D printer technologies

  • Three-D printers are the hottest thing on the IT landscape. Everyone — users and vendors alike — wants a piece of this pie and, with many 3D systems now printing candy and food, they could get their wish; that is, an actual, edible piece of pie. 3D printers are the 21st century version of Star Trek's replicators and they can, literally, print (or replicate) anything from a piece of pumpkin pie to a full-blown multi-story house. But 3D printing is not just one thing – there are many ways to do 3D printing. This slideshow illustrates the nine most common 3D printer technologies.

  • Technology No. 1: FDM What it is: Fused Deposition Modeling (patented additive manufacturing method trademarked by Stratasys, Inc.) Inventor: Scott Crump Year: Late 1980s Materials: Plastics are most common, but other compound materials are also used. Process: Material is extruded through a nozzle that moves over a build platform, which is lowered as each layer is added; that is, fine lines of molten thermoplastics are extruded onto a platform following a 3D design pattern. The material solidifies when deposited. Price Range: $200 to $18,000 Systems Sold by: Stratasys, Makerbot, 3D Systems, Fab@Home, Solid Concepts

  • Featured Printer: Stratasys Makerbot Replicator 2X Company/Founders: Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Smith; purchased by Stratasys in June 2013 for $403 million Printer Cost: $2,899 Software: MakerBot MakerWare Operating Systems: Windows 7+, Mac OS X 10.6+, Linux Ubuntu 12.04+ Connectivity: USB, SD card (both included) Makerbot Materials: MakerBot PLA Filament

  • Products based on FDM technology.

  • Technology No. 2: FFF What it is: Fused Filament Fabrication (similar process to FDM, but not trademarked) Inventor: Scott Crump Year: Late 1980s Materials: Plastics are most common, but other compound materials are also used. Process: Material is extruded through a nozzle that moves over a build platform, which is lowered as each layer is added; that is, fine lines of molten thermoplastics are extruded onto a platform (following a 3D design pattern), which solidify when deposited Price Range: $200 to $18,000 Systems Sold by: Stratasys, Makerbot, 3D Systems, Fab@Home, Solid Concepts

  • Featured Printer: 3D Systems Cubify CubeX Company/Founders: 3D Systems Printer Cost: $2,499 Software: Includes complementary CubeX Client Software (conversion software that converts 3D models into layered slices) Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows XP (SP3 or higher), Microsoft Windows 8 Connectivity: Memory stick USB port and PC connection USB port CubeX Materials: ABS and PLA plastic filament, both recyclable

  • Products based on FFF technology.

  • Technology No. 3: SLA What it is: Stereolithography (high-quality surface finishes and design accuracy). Also known as DLP: Digital Light Processing, a similar process that uses digital light processors instead of a laser to cure the resin.) Inventors: Chuck Hull, 3D Systems Year: 1984 Materials: ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), PC (polycarbonate), and PP (polypropylene) plastics plus other materials such as clear and high-heat materials. Process: An ultraviolet laser travels across a tray of liquid curable photopolymer resin. One thin layer at a time solidifies to the next layer as the build platform rises up from the tray. After object is printed, it's cleaned in a chemical bath and cured in a UV oven. Price Range: $600 to $50,000 Systems Sold by: 3D Systems, Formlabs, Envisiontec (DLP) and ZCorp (DLP)

  • Featured Printer: Formlabs Form 1 Company/Founders: Formlabs; Maxim Lobovsky, David Cranor, Natan Linder Printer Cost: $3,299 Software: PreForm Software 1.1 Operating Systems: Windows XP or higher, Mac OSX 10.6.8 or higher Connectivity: USB Form 1 Materials: Formlabs methacrylate photopolymer resin, $149 for a one-liter bottle

  • Products based on SLA technology.

  • Technology No. 4: DLP What it is: Similar to SLA but uses digital light processors instead of a laser to cure the resin. Featured Printer: Solidator DLP Desktop 3D Printer Company/Founders: tangible engineering; President & CEO Tim Fischer Printer Cost: $4,950 Software: Solidator Studio Operating Systems: Windows XP/7/8, MAC OS X, Linux Connectivity: Wireless LAN, Ethernet, USB Solidator Materials: Solidator custom liquid plastic resin materials (similar to nail polish) with approximately the same value as PLA (about 85D), harder than ABS (about 75D), and harder than POM (about 80D). D stands for durometer, which is measure of hardness. Cost about $50 a liter, and prints approximately 28, eight-inch Eiffel Towers.

  • Examples of Solidator DLP products.

  • Technology No. 5: SLS What it is: Selective Laser Sintering Inventors: Dr. Carl Deckard and Dr. Joe Beaman developed and patented at the University of Texas at Austin. Startup company DTM, purchased by 3D Systems in 2001 Year: Mid-1980s Materials: Powder materials including polymers such as nylon (neat, glass-filled, other fillers); polystyrene; metals (steel, titanium, alloy mixtures); composites; green sand Process: High-powered laser fuses small powdered particles into three-dimensional objects. Cross sections are scanned, then layers are fused together. Base lowers as each new layer is added. Price Range: Up to $250,000 Systems Sold by: EOS and 3D Systems

  • Featured Printer: Formiga P110 Company/Founders: EOS GmbH Electro Optical Systems founded by Dr. Hans J. Langer, Dr. Hans Steinbichler Printer Cost: Base price: $175,000 + costs for the material you will process Software: EOS RP Tools (optional); Desktop PSW; CAD interface = STL (optional: converter to all common formats) Operating Systems: Linux-based; GUI/controller with touch-screen software Connectivity: Network Ethernet Formiga Materials: PA 2200 (PA 12 unfilled), PA 2105 (PA 12 for dental models), PA 2201 (PA 12 natural unfilled), PA 3200 GF (PA 12 glass-filled), PrimePart PLUS (economic PA 12 unfilled), Alumide (aluminium-filled PA 12), PrimeCast 101 (Polystyrene), PA 1101 (PA 11 natural unfilled)

  • Examples of SLS-based products products.

  • Technology No. 6: DMLS What it is: Direct Metal Laser Sintering (generic term: MLS: Metal Laser Sintering) Inventors: EOS GmbH Electro Optical Systems founded by Dr. Hans J. Langer, Dr. Hans Steinbichler Year: 1989 Materials: stainless steel, maraging steel, cobalt chromium, inconel 625 and 718, and titanium Ti6Alv4 Process: Fiber laser melts fine metal powder that pushes materials over the base, fusing each layer to the next layer, which builds up the object. Base lowers as each new layer is added. Price Range: Up to $600,000 Systems Sold by: EOC, 3D Systems

  • Featured Printer: (Industrial) EOSINT M 280 (400 Watt) Company/Founders: EOS GmbH Electro Optical Systems founded by Dr. Hans J. Langer, Dr. Hans Steinbichler Printer Cost: Base $570,000 Software: EOS RP Tools, EOSTATE Magics RP (Materialise); CAD interface = STL Optional: converter for all standard formats Operating Systems: Windows XP (for the system); Windows 7 (for EOS RP Tools, EOSTATE) Connectivity: Network Ethernet EOSINT M 280 Materials: EOS Maraging Steel MS1, EOS Stainless Steel GP1, EOS Stainless Steel PH1, EOS Stainless Steel 316L, EOS Cobalt Chrome MP1, EOS Titanium Ti6Al4V, EOS Aluminum AlSi10Mg, EOS Nickel Alloy IN718, EOS Nickel Alloy IN 625, EOS Nickel Alloy HX

  • Products based on DMLS printer technology.

  • Technology No. 7: SLM What it is: Selective laser melting Inventors: Dr. Dieter Schwarze and Dr. Matthias Fockele of F&S Stereolithographietechnik GmbH; and ILT researchers Dr. Wilhelm Meiners and Dr. Konrad Wissenbach Year: 1995 Materials: Stainless steel, tool steel, cobalt chrome, titanium, aluminum in atomized form Process: A high-powered fiber laser beam fuses fine metallic powders together to create three-dimensional metal parts. Although known as laser sintering, this SLM process actually fully melts the metal into a solid homogeneous mass, which is more similar to Electron Beam Melting (EBM), which uses an electron beam as the energy source. Trade names include DMLS and LaserCusing. Price Range: up to $500,000 Systems Sold by: ReaLizer, Renishaw

  • Featured Printer: The ReaLizer SLM 100 Company/Founders: Physicist Dr. Matthias Fockele founded the company ReaLizer GmbH in 2004. Printer Cost: Around $342,000 Software: ReaLizer control software Operating Systems: Windows Connectivity: USB, Network ReaLizer SLM 100 Materials: Tool steel H 13, titanium, titanium V4, aluminium, cobalt chrome, stainless steel 316 L, Inconel, gold alloys, ceramic materials under development, others on request.

  • Examples of SLM-based products.

  • Technology No. 8: SHS What it is: Selective heat sintering technology Inventors: Blueprinter ApS; Danish start-up company with patent SHS (selective heat sintering) technology. Year: 2009 Materials: Thermoplastic powder optimized to work with SHS technology Process: Sintering using a thermal printer head; that is, printer spreads thin layer of plastic powder across the build chamber, then thermal printer head moves and melts picture of cross section into a plastic powder layer. Object is built inside chamber surrounded by unmelted powders. Price Range: Up to $25,000 Systems Sold by: Blueprinter ApS

  • Featured Printer: Blueprinter SHS Company/Founders: Blueprinter ApS Printer Cost: $13,672 Software: Everything is included in the printer, just need to connect to printer through network Operating Systems: Not dependent on an OS, works through a browser Connectivity: Through network browser Blueprinter Materials: Thermoplastic powder optimized to work with SHS technology Material cost: $135.37

  • Examples of SHS technology.

  • Technology No. 9: PolyJet 3D printing Inventors: Objet; Rami Bonen, Gershon Miller and Hanan Gotaiit; merged with Stratasys Year: 1998 Materials: Seven different materials; printer with clear transparent, high temperature and rigid opaque polypropylene-like materials -- four rigid opaque materials in a variety of colors plus transparent material (VeroClear), high temperature material (RGD525), and polypropylene-like material (DurusWhite) Process: Similar to inkjet document printing, but instead of ink on paper, layers of liquid photopolymer spill onto a build tray, which are then cured with ultraviolet light. Fine layers build up until object is created. Price Range: $15,000 - $750,000 Systems Sold by: Stratasys

  • Featured Printer: Objet30 Pro Desktop 3D Printer Company/Founders: Stratasys Printer Cost: Starts at $19,900 (estimate, price unconfirmed) Software: Objet Studio Operating Systems: Windows XP, Windows 7 32/64-bit Connectivity: Ethernet TCP/IP 10/100 base T Objet30 Pro Materials: Transparent rigid (VeroClear), Rigid Opaque white (VeroWhitePlus), Rigid Opaque blue (VeroBlue), Rigid Opaque black (VeroBlack), Rigid Opaque gray (VeroGray), Polypropylene-like (DurusWhite), High Temperature (RGD525)

  • Examples of PolyJet 3D printed products.

  • Build a 2,500-square-foot house in 20 hours Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, Industrial & Systems Engineering and Civil & Environmental Engineering professor at the University of Southern California, is an avid CAD/CAM, robotics, and mechatronics designer/creator responsible for the development of the novel Solid Free Form (aka Rapid Prototyping) processes such as those used in Contour Crafting and SIS. He is also the Director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT), the Director of Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program at USC, and he is the inventor/creator of the first (and only) 3D printed house.

  • Build a 2,500-square-foot house in 20 hours His automated construction of civil structures includes actual life size, inhabitable buildings. His work also includes biomedical applications such as restorative dentistry, rehabilitation engineering, and haptics devices for medical applications, plus autonomous mobile and modular robots for assembly applications on Earth and in space.

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