Stepping into 3D Printing world, there are a variety of techniques that can turn your creativity into reality, including FDM, SLA, SLS, MJF, and even metal 3D Printing. Besides, you can select various printing materials such as plastics, liquid resins, and powders, etc. And those post-processing tasks will make your part as unique as designed. As there are more 3D printers emerging on the market, beginners or hobbyists may be confused about which techniques to choose. So, we will compare the most common 3D printers: filament 3D printers and resin 3D printers in this article.
Image Source: Formlabs
The most popular desktop filament 3D printers should be FDM 3D printers. FDM, also known as Fused Deposition Modeling which is equal to Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). It is a process of melting and fusing the filament through the hot extruder; materials will be deposited on the printing bed layer by layer and eventually create an object. FDM materials are filaments, including PLA filament, PETG filament, ABS filaments, and sometimes you can even print nylon and metal products with FDM printers, while printer setup is not an easy task to print nylon filaments or metal filaments. Finding the best FDM 3D printers? Click Here.
There are a lot of resin printers on the market, such as Elegoo Saturn, Anycubic Photon, Phrozen Sonic Mini, Peopoly Phenom, Anycubic Mono, etc. Learn more about the best resin printers here. The most common technique that prints liquid resin should be SLA 3D Printing. SLA, the abbreviation of Stereolithography, cures liquid resins by the UV-laser light layer by layer and create a solid object with smooth surface. As resin 3D Printing is a process of curing liquid resins, making it possible for printing hollow parts easily. Liquid resins have multiple color choices, and you can also choose flexible resins to print flexible parts.
To decide to utilize FDM printers or SLA printers to produce your part, you may need to know the main differences between those printers.
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1. Dimensional Accuracy
The resolution of FDM printer is decided by the nozzle size, the precision of X, Y-axis movements of the extruder, and adhesion of the layers. Besides, as FDM printers will melt and fused the filaments layer by layer from bottom to top, which means the pressure is increasing when layers are adding. It will cause warping, collapsing, and shifting easily if operations and printer setup don’t go well. Moreover, the layer texture of FDM prints is visible.
For SLA printers, it is the laser light energy and printer set-up determine the surface resolution of the parts mostly. Generally, SLA prints parts with smoother surface finish than FDM parts due to the nature of curing liquid resins as well. SLA printers are being able to print parts with complex structures and intricate details. Therefore, SLA printers produce parts with higher dimensional accuracy than FDM printers do.
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Basically, FDM printers print filaments such as PLA, PETG, ABS, nylon or even metal filaments, while some plastics composites are also printable. There are multiple color choices for various filament brands, and the 1.75mm PLA filament is one of the most popular materials on the market. You can find that a variety of manufacturers that produce the best PLA filaments. The standard filament sizes ate 1.75mm and 2.85mm, and some brands boast that the material is warp-free and durable, which may worth a shot.
Liquid resin is the material of SLA Printing, which means the material choice of SLA is limited. If you are looking for more material options, you may skip SLA. Besides, color choices are less than FDM Printing, it has normally white, transparent, and black. However, painting of post-processing can bridge this gap between FDM prints.
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After printing parts with both FDM and SLA printers, post-processing is the necessary task. For FDM prints, the first task is o remove supports, you can do this manually or use some cutting tools. If you are looking for smoother surface and unique design on your models, sanding and painting are helpful.
When it comes to SLA prints post-processing, the operations are more complicates. First of all, there will be resins remaining on the parts after printing, it takes time. Taking the parts out of the printing bed, you need to remove supports and clean the part with ultra-sonic cleaner as the part is still sticky. Then, post-curing to ensure good properties of the part. Eventually, more post-processing tasks like sanding, painting and even tapping are available. Learn more SLA post-processing.
Image Source: Formlabs
Cost plays an important role when you choose the right 3D Printing technique, and the first two things you need to consider are printer price and material cost. There are more and more consumer-level desktop 3D printers showing on the market. Normally, printer price is varying based on printer set-up, if you are looking for desktop 3D printers, price for FDM or SLA printer wouldn’t have much differences, you can choose one from 300 US dollars to 3000 US dollars. It’s up to your budget. But if you are looking for industrial level, it will be a huge investment which will be over thousands of dollars.
Speaking of material cost, please keep in mind that you need to check the weight of material carefully before ordering. For filaments, the weight may from 750g to 3kg, for example, the price tag of 1kg of PLA filament spool may be from $20~80. When you buy resins, you need to see the liter of resin, for example, 1 liter of resin will cost $40-150.
In SLA printers, not only resin is consumed. In SLA printers, the bottom film on the resin tank has to be replaced after 2-3 liters of resin have been printed. The reason is that the tank gets smudged inside over time, so the light source is no longer able to precisely project the image in the resin. Depending on the manufacturer and model, resin tanks (or replacement FEP film) will set you back around $20 to $80.
Besides, you may also need to change come components of the printers, such as spares, nozzle, resin tank, etc.
Image Source: Clever Creations
When it comes to the final decision of SLA or FDM, we suggest that you can consider following aspects:
1. When you need parts with good and smooth surface finish, recommendation is SLA printer.
2. When high precision is important, recommendation is SLA printer.
3. When cost places on top priority, recommendation is FDM printer.
4. When you need final parts urgently, recommendation is FDM printer.
5. When the parts have complex geometries and intricate details, recommendation is SLA printer.
6. When hobby comes first, FDM printer.
7. When model verification to mass production is the task, SLA printer.
When you don’t plan to buy a 3D printer, here’s still an option for you, online 3D Printing services. Wenext provides multiple 3D Printing services to cater for your need. Printing resin parts, plastics parts, nylon parts, and even metal parts are feasible at Wenext. While part amount is not limited, what we offer is on-demand manufacturing services. With the online instant quoting engine, customer can upload STL files and get a quote seamlessly on our website. Besides, our customer success manager will share design advices to maker sure the 3D model is printable. With massive in-house manufacturing capabilities, we are able to deliver your parts efficiently without delay. Email email@example.com for more information on price and lead time.