3D Printing

3D printing technologies offer unique, affordable, and fast prototyping solutions. TEAM offers 5 distinct 3D printing technologies, each of which presents its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Please use the descriptions, combined with the printer-comparison guide found below when selecting a service. Feel free to contact us for further clarification.

Basic Comparison:

Printing Technology Material Strength Accuracy Geometric Flexibility Relative Cost
FDM Good Fair Fair $
Reinforced FDM Excellent Very Good Good $$$-$$$$$*
SLA Good to Excellent Very Good Good $$-$$$*
Polyjet Poor Excellent Excellent $$$
* Dependent on material selection

Click here to see a complete comparison summary.


FDM – Fused Deposition Modeling

FDM 3D Printing is a technique whereby a layered object is deposited as a continuous, or semi-continuous thermoplastic filament extruded from a hot-nozzle.  In other words, the deposition process this machine uses is similar to that of a hot-glue-gun.  This is the most common 3D printing technique in existence, as it’s generally inexpensive, and is capable of making durable parts.  However, its ability to achieve complex geometry is somewhat limited in comparison to other technologies, and its printing resolution is comparatively very course (with layer thicknesses generally between 100, and 300 microns).

Reinforced FDM – Fiber-reinforced Fused

Reinforced FDM 3D Printing is an extension of standard FDM printing (see documentation on FDM printing for details).  The primary differences being:

  1. The primary build material is a composite consisting of chopped carbon embedded in the bulk plastic (Nylon), to give us “Onyx” in place of PLA, ABS, etc.
  2. (Optional) continuous bands of fiber filament (typically carbon fiber) embedded in the above “bulk” printer material.

It’s printing resolution is generally also somewhat better than standard FDM;  Thinner layers,  and higher-precision machine mechanics generally yield a +/- 100 micron accuracy.

orangeSLA – Stereolithography

SLA 3D Printing is a technique whereby an object is etched into UV-curing liquid resin via laser, in a series of layers.   This printing technology is good where strength and good accuracy are both important characteristics, or where geometry may be too complex to achieve via FDM printing.  In general, this printing technology may not be appropriate where wall thicknesses exceed ~10mm, or with large-scale parts.

Polyjet – Jetted Photopolymerpolyjet

Polyjet printing is a 3d deposition process that shares many similarities to traditional, 2D inkjet printing.  However, instead of jetting droplets of ink onto paper, Polyjet printing deposits a UV curing liquid resin onto a build platform which is solidified immediately following the jetting process.  This process is looped in successive layers.  Upon completion of the print, a gel-like temporary support structure is removed via high-pressure water.

As the layer size is typically around 22 microns, this printing technology is capable of extreme precision in comparison to FDM printing, and is slightly better than SLA printing in terms of accuracy.  However, the cost for this level of precision is that materials are significantly weaker, and more expensive.

Coupling this level of precision with a dedicated support structure permits the development of “printed assemblies,” whereby multiple pieces are held in suspension from one another with support structure, printed as one part, and separated after cleaning to reveal a functional part.  As an example, note that the planetary gears depicted below were not assembled post-print, but were instead printed with support material isolating all components in the assembly.

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