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HOW TO CHOOSE 3D PRINTING PROCESS?
Fashion pieces and machine components for aeronautics won’t be 3D printed with the same 3D printing technology, or the same material because these won’t need the same mechanical properties.
That is the fundamental step while looking for a 3D printing material: what do I need to create these parts? Should the body be heat resistant? Should it be flexible, robust? What is the level of accuracy required? All the answers to these questions will help you to determine the 3D printing process you need to use.
Choosing a process by material:
Polymers and metals are the two main 3D printing material groups. At the same time, other materials (ceramics or composites) are also available.
Thermoplastics are best suited for the manufacturing of end-use parts for industrial applications and operative prototypes.
Typical 3D printing thermoplastics:
SLS: Nylon( PA), TPU
FDM: PLA, Nylon, PEI(ULTEM), ASA, TPU, ABS, PETG,
Thermosets are better suited for applications where aesthetics are essential, as they can produce parts with smooth surfaces and subtle details. These are more brittle than thermoplastics, so they are not suitable for functional applications.
Material jetting produces parts with dimensional accuracy and generally smooth surfaces, but at a higher cost than SLA/DLP. Both processes use similar acrylic-based resins.
Material Jetting: Standard resin, Digital ABS, Dental resin( PP like),Transparent resin, Durable resin
SLA/DLP: Standard resin Digital ABS, Durable resin( PP like), clear resin, Dental resin
Metal 3D printed parts have good mechanical properties and can operate at high temperatures.
DMLS/SLM parts have better mechanical properties and tolerances, but Binder Jetting can be up to 10x cheaper and can produce much more substantial parts.
Typical 3D printing metals:
DMLS/SLM: Stainless Steel, Titanium, Aluminum
Binder Jetting: Stainless Steel (bronze-filled or sintered)
Choosing a process by use case:
It is necessary to determine early in the selection process, whether the primary design consideration is function or visual appearance.
The flowchart below describes the 3D printing process based on common design requirement for functional parts and prototypes.
When visual appearance is the primary interest, then the 3D printing process selection can be analyzed using the flowchart below.
Choosing a process by manufacturing capabilities:
It is important to have an overview of the fundamental mechanics of each process to understand their key benefits and limitations fully.
● Determine early whether the functionality or visual appearance is the priority.
● When more than one process can manufacture parts in the same material, the selection process becomes a cost versus properties comparison.
● For functional polymer parts, prefer thermoplastics over thermosets.
● For visual appearance and aesthetics, thermosets are the best option.
● For metal parts, prefer DMLS/SLM for high-performance applications and Binder Jetting for lower cost and larger part size.