With the continuous development of 3D printing technology, there is also fierce competition between FDM and SLA. The two technologies are shaped differently, but they all exist around the 3D printing world. Both have their own important strengths and applications. It is worth noting that there are other types of 3D printing technologies, such as polyjet and SLS. However, FDM and SLA are often more common, especially at the consumer market level, so we want to study them specifically.
If you watch a 3D printer video at work, you may see a well-designed print nozzle in 3D space, extruding a row of molten plastic to create a clear shape. This is a very popular image, and FDM is the most commonly used technology for small 3D printers. It creates the first layer and then stacks it to create an object. Below, let’s talk about how it works.
First, the printer must get the right information – essentially a path that can be followed so that the deposited material can create the right target. This is done by using a 3D model file (such as an STL or OBJ file) that contains information about how to “slice” an object to FDM to apply a layer at a time. This is one of the easiest ways to program on a 3D object, which you can use for many different types of objects. Of course, the more complex or smaller the object, the finer the cut, and not all FDM printers can handle complex objects.
By sending a file to the printer’s object layer, it has all the data needed to boot. However, it still needs raw materials. The printer uses filaments made of heatable raw materials and easily pushes them into a material tube or thread. Typically, the material is made of a relatively safe plastic that is easy to mold, but there are large differences in filaments, which may also be a combination of other materials that provide additional performance to the printed object.
After the 3D file, the printer now heats the material and squeezes it through the nozzle while moving, one layer at a time. Once completed, there is usually a short wait time so that the layers can be fully integrated. Then the object is ready to use!
FDM printers require particularly fine details, or objects that need to move parts. It can’t really create a high-end prototype. They can also be very picky. Encoding and calibration must be very precise, or the printer will not function properly. This may mean that you must do a lot of work to “teach” the printer how to start making new objects.