What is the difference between the different 3D printing processes


What is the difference between the different 3D printing processes?

Technology Knowledge



3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, encompasses various processes that create three-dimensional objects layer by layer from digital models. Each 3D printing method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, making them suitable for different applications. Here are some common 3D printing processes along with their differences:


  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) / Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF):

Process: FDM/FFF builds objects layer by layer using a heated nozzle to extrude thermoplastic filaments.


– Affordable and widely accessible.

– Supports a variety of materials.

– Good for prototyping and simple functional parts.


– Limited resolution compared to some other methods.

– Layer adhesion may affect strength and surface finish.


  • Stereolithography (SLA):

Process: SLA uses a liquid resin cured by a UV laser to create precise and detailed objects.


– High resolution and smooth surface finish.

– Suitable for intricate and small parts.

– Wide range of materials available.


– Resin can be expensive.

– Post-processing is often required.

– Limited in terms of build size.


  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS):

Process: SLS employs a laser to sinter powdered material (such as nylon or metal) layer by layer.


– No need for support structures.

– Wide range of materials, including polymers and metals.

– Good for complex and functional parts.


– Expensive machinery and materials.

– Surface finish may require post-processing.


  • Digital Light Processing (DLP):

Process:Similar to SLA, but DLP uses a light projector to cure entire layers simultaneously.


– Faster than SLA due to simultaneous layer exposure.

– Good resolution and surface finish.


– Limited by the size of the light projector.

– Post-processing may be required.


  • Binder Jetting:

Process: Binder Jetting deposits a liquid binder onto a powder bed to bind the particles together layer by layer.


– Fast printing speed.

– Can print in full color.

– Suitable for large parts.


– Lower resolution compared to some other methods.

– Porous parts may require post-processing.


  • Material Jetting:

Process: Material Jetting operates by jetting droplets of liquid photopolymer that are then cured with UV light.


– High resolution and excellent surface finish.

– Can print in multiple materials simultaneously.


– Expensive equipment and materials.

– Post-processing may be necessary.


  • Metal 3D Printing (Direct Metal Laser Sintering – DMLS, Electron Beam Melting – EBM):

Process: Utilizes metal powders that are fused together layer by layer using a laser or electron beam.


– Suitable for producing metal parts with high strength.

– Complex geometries and intricate structures are possible.


– Expensive machines and materials.

– Post-processing and heat treatment may be required.



Choosing the right 3D printing process depends on factors such as material requirements, part complexity, resolution needs, and budget constraints. Each method has its niche applications and is continually evolving as technology advances.