How Many Types of 3D Printer are There?
There are ten basic types of 3D printer models:
- Stereolithography (SLA)
- Digital Light Processing (DLP)
- Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) (also known as Fused Deposition Modeling - FDM)
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
- Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
- Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)
- Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
- Binder Jetting (BJ)
- Material Jetting (MJ)
SLA, FFF and SLS are the most widely used.
SLA was the first 3D printing technique to be developed. It works by exposing light-sensitive liquid resin to a laser beam. The object is built up layer by layer and the resin hardens.
FFF is the technique typically used in 3D printers for the hobbyist sector. Objects are created from the bottom up as layers of heated filament are deposited. It is also a cost-effective solution for small businesses, engineering firms and design studios.
SLS involves solidifying and bonding fine beads of material - typically plastics or ceramics - and forming a 3D object from these. A laser is used to etch a pattern onto the powdered raw material. This then lowers and the next layer is deposited over the previous one.
Are 3D Printers Expensive to Run?
There is no simple answer to this question. The cost will depend on the model you buy and how frequently you use it. However, it may be helpful to consider the following factors:
The Purchase Price of the Printer
Many different models are available, from simple budget printers to higher-end, fully-featured designs. You should always choose the model which best suits your budget but it is also sensible to consider the cost of spares and the replacement 3D printer parts you may require if you encounter technical problems - for example, extruder jams. Component upgrades are another potential future cost to keep in mind.
Costs vary according to the quality of the filament chosen and the size of the objects you intend to produce. A regularly used printer is likely to require a one kilogram roll of filament roll per month. Costs can be reduced by minimising filament waste.
Typically, 3D printers will consume around the same amount of electricity as a domestic fridge - roughly £60 per annum. Some models will also switch into idle mode if left unattended for long periods of time which will also burn electricity.
An accurate, exact figure is difficult to specify but a reasonable estimate for the average running costs of a mid-range 3D printer is around £300+ per year.
How Long has 3D Printing Technology Been Around?
3D printing technology was first devised in the mid-1970s and developed into a commercial product the following decade. Further innovations followed during the 1990s.
Do 3D Printers Only Use Plastic?
No. Plastic is the most widely used fabrication material but some higher-end models can also mould resins, ceramics and even metal.
Do 3D Printers Need Ventilation?
Standard 3D printers using PLA filament have been shown to emit a mist of ultrafine particles and volatile chemical compounds, as well as a substance called styrene, which is a constituent of plastic. Although researchers have not identified a clear link between ill health and the inhalation of this mist, ventilation is recommended where possible.