Top 10 Popular 3D Printing Technologies

Author: Aaron Chen  Date Posted:3 February 2020 

Understanding different 3D printing technologies can be challenging especially for 3d printing beginners. What is the difference between SLS and DLP, or FDM and SLS? With so many acronyms in 3D printing, it can be pretty confusing. Before starting any projects that involve 3D printing, it is vital to know and understand each type of 3D printing technologies.

To avoid mistakes that may affect the expected outcome of 3d printing, here is a guide about the top 10 popular 3D printing technologies. Today, there are six 3D printing processes. Under each process is the different types of 3D printing technologies. Read on here to learn more about each process and technologies.

3D Printing Process: Material Extrusion

Material extrusion is an additive manufacturing process wherein material is selectively dispensed or distributed through a nozzle. One example of material extrusion is FDM.

1. FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling)

FDM is a common material extrusion process. In this 3d printing technology, the material is drawn through a nozzle where it is heated in a fixed path layer by layer.

When it comes to price, FDM is the cheapest among the printing technologies. It is also the most common type of 3D printing technology.

3D Printing Process: Vat Polymerization

Vat Polymerization is a process like this: A photopolymer resin that is placed in a vat is selectively cured by a light source (UV light) to form a solid part. There are two common forms of Vat Polymerization which are SLA and DLP.

2. SLA (Stereolithography)

SLA is known to be the first printing technology used in the history of 3D printing. This method converts liquid into solid objects layer by layer. This 3d printing technology is used to create different prototypes, models and production parts for various industries.

3. DLP (Digital Light Processing)

DLP is a 3d printing technology that is similar to SLA. The only difference is that DLP uses a digital light projector to flash the image onto the liquid polymer. This process is repeated until the object is fully printed. DLP can print faster compared to SLA for both large and small prints.

3D Printing Process: Powder Bed Fusion (Polymers)

Powder Bed Fusion (polymers) is a 3D printing method which uses thermal energy source to induce fusion inside a build platform to form a 3D object. An example of powder bed fusion process is SLS.

4. SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)

SLS uses a laser to sinter powdered material (usually plastic) to create a solid object. This 3d printing technology is a popular choice for engineers and designers in product development.                                                              

3D Printing Process: Powder Bed Fusion (Metals)

Metal powder bed fusion is another 3D printing technique that uses a thermal source to induce fusion of metal powder particles layer by layer. There are different energy sources that can be used in metal powder bed fusion. It can be lasers or electron beams. There are two printing technologies that use metal powder bed fusion method.

5. DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) and SLM (Selective Laser Melting)

With DMLS, the metal powder is heated but not melted to a certain point so that it can fuse together on a molecular level. On the other hand, SLM uses laser to fully melt a metal powder and form a homogenous part.

The difference between the two also lies on the type of material they used. DMLS produces objects from metal alloys  while SLM forms single element materials such as titanium.

6. EBM (Electron Beam Melting)

EBM is different from any other powder bed fusion technique. Instead of using lasers (photons), EBM uses high energy beam or electron beam to induce fusion between the particles of metal powder.

Compared to DMLS, EBM has higher build speed because it uses high energy density. This 3d printing technology offers a competitive edge to advanced enterprises since designers can enjoy exceptional design flexibility.

3D Printing Process: Material Jetting

Material Jetting is another 3D printing technique where droplets of material are deposited and cured in a build plate. There are two common types of material jetting process.

7. MJ (Material Jetting)

Material Jetting operates in a similar way to 2D printers or standard inkjet printers. The print head dispenses droplets of photosensitive materials that solidifies/cures using a UV light. The machine deposits the material layer by layer until the model is completely printed.

8. DOD (Drop on Demand)

DOD is another type of 3d printing technology that uses 2 printing jets. The first printing jet deposits the material that is usually a wax-like liquid while the other one is used for dissolvable support material. This technology is generally used to produce models for lost-wax casting or investment casting.

3D Printing Process: Binder Jetting

Binder Jetting, on the other hand, is an additive manufacturing that creates object additively with a liquid binding agent. Binder jetting moves a print head over the powder surface and deposits the binder droplets. These binder droplets bind the particle together to produce an object. There are two types of Binder jetting.

9. Sand Binder Jetting

As the name suggests, this technology uses sand such as gypsum and sandstone to produce 3d parts. Sand binder jetting is a popular 3d printing technology as it is low-cost type.

10. Metal Binder Jetting

Metal binder jetting is known to be a more economical technology than any other metal 3D printing processes. This is because it allows the production of complex geometries. Furthermore, it can produce parts that do not require support structures.


From all the information given above, you can fully understand the top 10 popular 3D printing technologies.  These 3d printing technologies are different to some extent but all are based on the same principle which is to turn a digital model into a solid three-dimensional object by adding material layer by layer.

On the other hand, if you don’t have any materials and machines to start with, seeking for professional assistance for your 3D printing needs will be a great idea. You can contact a 3D printing service provider to help you. They can offer exceptional 3d printing services for your specific requirement by using some of the technologies stated above.

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up