Understanding and choosing the correct technology and material for your needs is the most important step in getting the perfect part.
Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)
Fused Deposition Modelling is the most common additive manufacturing process, and the one that most people picture when 3D Printing is mentioned in conversation.
A thermoplastic filament is heated until molten, and then extruded by the printer in a pattern dictated by the part geometry, layer-by-layer.
Although best suited for quick prototypes, some of the most recent material advances mean that some FDM parts are now superior to injection moulded and CNC machined parts for strength and durability. For instance, our fibreglass reinforced parts are 11x stiffer than an ABS equivalent.
Stereolithography is a technology that has become very popular with small businesses and individuals in the last few years, due to unrivalled surface finish and a rapidly expanding portfolio of materials.
An ultraviolet laser is used to cure a liquid photopolymer resin into a solid part. The pattern that the laser follows is defined in software, based upon the part geometry.
SLA is the go-to option for visual prototypes due to its characteristic smooth surface finish. Although SLA parts have a reputation for being brittle, new materials choices mean this is no longer the case, and functional prototypes can be made that are extremely durable.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
Until recently, Selective Laser Sintering apparatus has been extremely expensive and only available to those companies able to make large capital investments. Service bureaus have offered SLS parts, but at inflated prices and slower lead times.
New entrants into the SLS market mean that PrintPool will soon be able to offer SLS parts, often considered the ‘gold standard’ for functional prototypes, at a lower cost and with shorter lead times than ever before.