Modern technologies allow any person to be creative with the use of a 3D printer. A smart device can help you build stunning figurines and statues of well-known comics and cartoon characters, and numerous guides can explain how to paint the models. The question is, which of the popular types of 3D printers to choose in 2020 to implement all your dreams into life.
Some devices are more popular than others. But they all come useful to their masters, once a hobbyist understands which type to buy based on the technology used, cost, expectations, capabilities, manageability, quality and speed.
Types of 3D Printers
When Charles Hull created the first 3D printer in the 1980s, nobody thought that 3D printing would be so affordable several decades after. Today, it is possible to spend under $300 on a new machine. Of course, many printers cost over $1000. The price depends on the types of 3D printers, manufacturer, available features, etc.
In this review, Gambody wishes to talk about the known and most popular types of 3D printers available in the market in 2020, both for industrial and personal purposes.
There are nine main types of 3D printers shortly abbreviated as:
- FDM (FFF)
It is great to look closer at each class based on its popularity in 2020.
1. FDM (FFF) Types of 3D Printers
It is no question that FDM types of 3D printers are among the most popular in the world. They are affordable in terms of cost and simple to operate; they deliver exceptional results and come with various sizes of the bed for smaller and bigger projects.
FDM stands for fused deposition modelling, and FFF is known as fused filament fabrication. These are very similar technologies; only the names are different due to trademarks. Thus, FDM and FFF are the same types of 3D printers and can be grouped into one category.
First FDM types of 3D printers were introduced by Scott Crump (Stratasys Ltd.) in the 1980s. Later similar technology was offered under FFF abbreviation, and both FDM/FFF devices proved to be much functional and offer outstanding print quality.
FDM/FFF types of 3D printers work with thermoplastics, building models layer by layer by heating plastic to its melting point and extruding filament through the nozzle onto the print bed. This printing method can rely on supports while building a model, and there are several types of supports used by FDM machines.
The printing speed depends very much on the size of the model and nozzle diameter.
Price starts at: $149 – $199
Standard filament: ABS, PLA
Famous FDM 3D printers: Creality CR-10, Prusa i3 MK2, Creality Ender-3, ANYCUBIC Chiron, FlashForge Creator Pro
2. SLA Types of 3D Printers
The history of 3D printing began with SLA types of 3D printers invented by Charles Hull from 3D Systems, Inc. And today this technology is still used widely.
SLA stands for stereolithography apparatus, which uses a prototyping process and relies on ultraviolet light. This method is perfect for both professional engineers and home-made enthusiasts.
SLA machines can turn liquid plastic into nicely solid models by exposing the liquid and forming the layer of the model with the laser. When the layer is completed, and plastic becomes hard, the machine adds a fraction of liquid to let the laser form another layer. With all layers finished, it is a must to rinse a figurine with a solvent and process the model in an ultraviolet oven.
The quality of prints usually depends on the quality of the SLA machine. The model might not be too smooth if a low-cost device is used.
While many people use SLA laser machines to make prototypes rather than finished objects, many hobbyists can print impressive models using SLA technology.
Price starts at: $199 – $249
Common filament: Resin
Famous SLA 3D printers: Formlabs Form 2, Monoprice MP Mini, ANYCUBIC Photon S
3. DLP Types of 3D Printers
The DLP technology (DLP is digital light processing) was developed in the 1980s, just as FDM and SLA were. Being similar to SLA, DLP also needs photopolymers to work.
These projectors usually use arc lamps for light, work with liquid plastic resin, and have a special liquid crystal display panel. They affect resin with light to shape it in the form of the printed model, layer by layer with each being exposed entirely all at once.
The speed with which new models are built is impressive. While DLP projectors are expensive, they are trendy in jewellery, dental and other micro-structure industries.
Price starts at: $1,000 – $3,500
Common filament: Resin
Famous DLP 3D printers: MiiCraft 125, EnvisionTEC P4K, Wanhao Duplicator 8
4. SLS Types of 3D Printers
It is possible to create beautiful models with SLS or selective laser sintering technique. SLS machines exist since the 1980s as well as many other types of 3D printers.
In some ways, SLS technology is similar to SLA. Just these machines work with powdered material, unlike SLA printers that require liquid resin.
SLS machines require no supports while 3D printing. Powder surrounds each model that is crafted on such a device. Since the machine can work with various materials, including silver metal, it is trendy among companies and individuals who offer customized 3D printed products (jewellery, accessories, etc.).
At the same time, the pricing point is pretty high because of the CO2 lasers used in devices. Such high-power lasers can fuse particles as the laser is scanning layers.
Prices start at: $6,000 – $10,000
Common filament: Powdered substances (nylon, ceramics, metals)
Famous SLS 3D printers: Sinterit Lisa Pro, Formlabs Fuse 1
5. SLM Types of 3D Printers
Companies that need to melt metals into 3D-dimensional parts work with SLM or selective laser melting technique. Such machines have a high-power laser beam. This laser can fuse and melt metallic powder material and form highly-detailed models.
First SLM machines were invented back in 1995.
Using STL files, like other 3D printers do, SLM machines evenly distribute metal powder onto the printing bed. Then high laser energy is applied to every printable layer to fuse it. Models are formed from the melting powder, layer by layer.
While SLM technology is perfect for crafting complex metal structures and widely used in aerospace and medical industries, it is not popular among at-home enthusiasts due to its expensive cost.
Prices start at: $250,000 – $400,000
Common filament: Metal powder
Famous SLM 3D printers: SLM 500, SLM Solutions SLM 125, Optomec LENS 450, Realizer SLM 125
6. EBM Types of 3D Printers
Developed soon after the invention of SLM machines, EBM (electron beam melting) boasts similar technology. These types of printers also work with metals and apply powder bed fusion processes while building a model.
EBM machines work at high temperatures because they melt the metal powder to the fullest. The printing speed is pretty slow. The choice of metal powder is minimal. It is what makes the EMB technique not too popular even among manufacturers.
At the same time, some companies in the aerospace and medical industries successfully apply EBM technology in their work.
Prices start at: $250,000
Common filament: Metal powder
Famous EBM 3D printers: Arcam Q20 and Q20plus
7. LOM Types of 3D Printers
While LOM machines (LOM stands for laminated object manufacturing) are not popular among hobbyists and crafters, these types of 3D printers are some of the quickest. They are also the most affordable in terms of materials used.
The LOM method uses layers of paper (or metal, plastic) and adhesive to fuse them. Everything works under heat and pressure, and the final shapes can be formed by using a knife or laser. It can require additional processes afterwards, for example, drilling or machining.
While using paper and glue for creating 3D printing objects is fantastic, and such a method is environment-friendly, LOM machines are costly.
Prices start at: $4,000 – $40,000
Common filament: Paper
Famous LOM 3D printers: Mcor ARKePro, Mcor Matrix 300+, Iris HD, Solido SD300 Pro
8. BJ Types of 3D Printers
When you hear about inkjet 3D printing, BJ or binder jetting is meant. This technology uses powder-based material together with a bonding agent to create various projects.
The machine makes layer by layer, attaching them with an adhesive. While this method does not guarantee any high-resolution printing, it can create colourful projects if you supply binder with colour pigments.
BJ types of machines usually focus on one particular material. Some work with metal only, others are great for printing with sand, etc.
Prices start at: $250,000
Common filament: Powder-based plastics, sand, gypsum, ceramics, metals
Famous BJ 3D printers: X1 160PRO, ExOne R2 metal 3D printer
9. MJ Technology
This method differs a lot from all other 3D printing types. It is best described not as MJ or material jetting, but as wax casting. While wax casting existed for centuries thanks to jewellery customization, MJ technology became a part of the 3D printing world not so long ago. It makes wax casting an automated procedure.
MJ technology is conventional for jewellery and dental industries, where it is required to build high-resolution models and casts.
The machine heats the wax and adds it to the printing bed, layer by layer, which is cured by UV lights.
Prices start at: $70,000
Common filament: Synthetic waxes
Famous MJ 3D printers: ProJet MJP 3600
These are the main types of 3D printers used in 2020. Many technologies are designed and used by corporations and big companies in dental, jewellery, aerospace and other industries. They are expensive for at-home usage. Still, there are many affordable FDM (FFF), SLA and SLS machines preferred by hobbyists.
No matter which types of 3D printers you prefer and run to build models, make sure to share photos of the projects you are most proud of with Gambody Facebook community. It is a place to post 3D prints, follow advice on painting, and search for useful tips and tricks.