There are a couple of handfuls of 3d printing technologies currently, and people will develop more as we explore material science.

Essentially 3d printing is taking a digital model and building a physical copy. All 3d printers take a material and build layer by layer to print the objects.

The difference between the technologies is how the materials are processed to print 3-dimensional objects.

The language to describe these technologies has been standardized by the authority in standards, International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO provides standards for many industries, and for additive manufacturing, they give us ISO/ASTM 52900:2021(en) Additive manufacturing — General principles — Fundamentals and vocabulary

They give us this list of process categories that include:

  • Material Extrusion (MEX)
  • Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)
  • Binder Jetting (BJT)
  • Sheet lamination (SHL)
  • Material jetting (MJT)
  • Vat Photopolymerization (VPP)
  • Directed Energy Deposition (DED)

In the 3d Printing community, we employ several technologies for each process. It can be hard to distinguish between the Process Categories and the Printing Technologies.

We will summarize them here and discuss them in detail in future posts. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date at the bottom of the page.

Material Extrusion (MEX)

They define this as "The process in which material is selectively dispensed through a nozzle or orifice." This process is abbreviated as MEX-TRB since the thermal reaction bonds the material. The most common Printing Technology we use today that fits this process category is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).

The exact process is used for other materials nearly the same way, except they are not laying down the molten material but instead laying down chemically bonding materials such as Concrete, Resin, Silicone, and many others. In this case, they would be MEX-CRB which means a chemical reaction bonds the material.

Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)

They define this as "The process in which thermal energy selectively fuses regions of a powder bed" The powders can be Metals or Polymers, and the Polymers can have additives such as glass or carbon fibers.

There are two standard methods, including Electron beam and Laser-Based sintering. No matter the material or heating method, they are processed layer by layer. Each layer is added by lowering the powder bed and adding a new layer of powder on top to be fused.

Binder Jetting (BJT)

They define this as "The process in which a liquid bonding agent is selectively deposited to join powder materials." The powders can be a wide range of materials, from Sand or Silica for sand casting to Polymers and Metals, including Stainless.

Binder Jetting is very similar to Powder bed fusion, except a binder fluid is applied through a print head instead of using heat to bond the powder.

Sheet lamination (SHL)

They define this as "The process in which sheets of material are bonded to form a part." The materials can be Paper, Metals, Polymers, or almost any composite material that can be made into thin sheets.

Each sheet or layer is bonded to the previous layer via an adhesive or bonding agent that matches the materials in use. Some materials are bonded or welded together using ultrasonics or heat.

Material jetting (MJT)

They define this as "The process in which droplets of feedstock material are selectively deposited." The most commonly used materials are photopolymers and casting wax.

The print head deposits materials like an inkjet printer onto the build plate, cured, and then the next layer is printed.

Vat Photopolymerization (VPP)

They define this as "The process in which liquid photopolymer in a vat is selectively cured by light-activated polymerization." This process uses Photopolymer resin and is very popular. Many printers are available that do variations such as stereolithography (SLA), digital light processing (DLP), and masked stereolithography (MSLA).

The process is generally the same. Each layer is added to the print using UV light to cure the resin selectively. Since this is usually done with lasers or ultra-high-def displays, the print quality is generally outstanding.

Directed Energy Deposition (DED)

They define this as "The process in which focused thermal energy is used to fuse materials by melting as they are being deposited." Typically, this printing method is used for metals, including titanium and titanium alloys, Inconel, tantalum, tungsten, niobium, stainless steel, aluminum, etc.

Prints can be done from scratch or as part of a repair or modification of a preexisting part. The filament wire or powder is melted using an electric arc or other heat sources, such as a laser beam or an electron beam.

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