If you've ever done any research into 3D printing recently, you will notice that there are a lot of different technologies available to create a 3D object! It can get confusing trying to understand and sort out these different technologies. It's a very exciting time to be witnessing all of the different 3D technology advancements, but it can also get overwhelming.
For those of you who are considering making the leap to 3D printing, there are 2 technologies that are most commonly available on the consumer market: Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) and Stereolithography (SLA)/Direct Light Processing (DLP).
FFF (also called Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM) is the most common and is used here at Lyforms Small-Scale. It is also the most accessible cost-wise. It feeds a spool of filament through a heated nozzle via a stepper motor where it is melted and deposited on to a build plate. It will lay the melted filament material down onto the build plate layer by layer to create a 3D printed object.
SLA/DLP is the second most common as these printers have dropped in price significantly over the past few years. SLA/DLP are two different approaches to what is called Vat Polymerization. Instead of using filament, this technology uses resin that cures or solidifies after being exposed to intense light. A combination of mirrors selectively shine the light on to the resin layer by layer to create a 3D printed object.
The difference between SLA and DLP has to do with the type of light source used. SLA used a laser beam that is shined rapidly across the resin to create the shape of each layer. DLP uses a digital light projector, such as LED screens or UV lamps, to flash a single image of the layer across the resin. SLA will give you a finer resolution, but takes longer to print. DLP prints faster, but the resolution will often be more pixelated.
There are many other technologies being used to create lots of amazing things these days. I found a great article that lists 10 of them. It does a good job of providing visualizations of each process and breaking down the pros and cons of each. I learned a lot from it. I hope that you do to!