How to choose between 3D printing processes?

How to choose between 3D printing processes?

Posted By Lucie Gaget on Dec 18, 2019 | 0 comments

Did you know that additive manufacturing is actually a term that designates multiple manufacturing processes? 3D printing possibilities seem to be endless and choosing the right process and the right material can really help you improve both your products and your manufacturing process. 

But for this, you will have to make the right choice, otherwise, your use of additive manufacturing could be counterproductive instead of being a real boost and game-changing step for your business. Here are all of our best tips to help you choose among all 3D printing processes!


Selecting the right 3D printing material 


Willing to use 3D printing technology is a good thing, but first, you have to concretely determine what is the project you want to manufacture and what are the specificities of the parts you need. We see it every day with our online 3D printing service, our customers are sending us really different 3D files and projects for many different industries. From architecture to medical and mechanical engineering, each project will have its own requirements. For all of these projects, a specific material will be chosen.

While using additive manufacturing you will have the choice among various 3D printing materials, from plastic to resin, or metal. But keep in mind that there is a wide range of different plastic materials, resins, or metals, with different technical properties. Moreover, there are not only different plastics, there are also different processes and sometimes, different processes for the same material! That is where it can become complicated to make the right choice.


Selecting a process according to properties


Fashion items and mechanical parts for aeronautics won’t be 3D printed with the same 3D printing technology, or the same material because these parts won’t need the same mechanical properties. 

That is the first step while looking for a 3D printing material: what do I need to create these parts? Should the material be heat resistant? Should it be flexible, robust? What is the level of accuracy needed? What are the finishing options available for this material? 

All the answers to these questions will determine the 3D printing process you need to use. We are going to help you by answering these questions!


Do you need to print flexible material?


There are actually a few choices available if you want to create flexible parts using additive manufacturing. The main technologies to get flexible parts are Selective Laser Sintering, and HP Multi Jet Fusion.

  • MultiJet Fusion PA12 can be used for both rigid or more flexible parts, depending on the wall thickness you decide to print. With a wall thickness of 0.6 mm, you can get flexible parts.
  • PEBA is a rubber-like material, quite resistant, with great for functional flexible plastic parts for both prototypes and finished products. More than just being flexible, this material also has good impact resistance, energy return, and fatigue resistance.


But SLS 3D printing is not the only way to get flexible materials. The DLS (CLIP) technology developed by Carbon is also offering the great possibility to get flexible parts. 

  • Elastomeric Polyurethane, also called EPU, is a high-performance polyurethane elastomer. It’s a great material for such as cushioning, gaskets, and seals, or any project requiring high elasticity and tear resistance.


Do you need to print a heat resistant material?


A lot of projects can require some heat resistant parts, and it’s definitely an aspect you have to take into account while choosing your material. If metal 3D printing seems to be the best option, some plastic parts created through SLS 3D printing have good resistance to high temperatures.

  • MultiJet Fusion PA12 can resist exposure to a range of 700 °C to 800 °C, but this resistance is depending on the dimensions and thickness of the part. Regarding its flammability properties, the Multijet Fusion PA 12 material’s flammability degree is obtained and certified by UL is HB at a 0.75 mm thickness.


Metals are obviously the most resistant materials when it comes to heat, but let’s see what the most resistant ones are.

  • Titanium, 3D printed using Direct Metal Laser Sintering, is a material with high mechanical properties. Titanium is not only durable and resistant to oxidation. Indeed, this material has a really high melting point: 1660° C or 3260° F. These resistant properties make it a widely used material for Aeronautics or Aerospace applications.
  • Stainless Steel is also widely used in additive manufacturing. This metal also has a high melting point: 1400 °C. This material is used in manufacturing industries offering great opportunities in the creation of metal parts resistant to heat and abrasion. 


Do you need to print with the cheapest material?


Who said that additive manufacturing was an expensive process? For some steps of your development process it shouldn’t cost you a lot for a good result, such as proof of concept or prototyping stages. Once again, Selective Laser Sintering will offer you some options.

  • MultiJet Fusion PA12 is actually the cheapest option you will find on Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service. This material, in its grey raw version, will be perfect for any prototyping process, allowing a cost-efficient result


Using other technologies such as Fused Deposition Modeling techniques (or FDM), you will also have access to cheap filament materials.

  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), a material part of the thermoplastic polymers family. This material is really popular for individuals with a desktop 3D printer because it is easy to use, easy to operate, with low prices. However, the parts printed with this technology won’t be as accurate and technical as parts printed with industrial SLS 3D printers.


Do you need to 3D print really accurate parts?


What level of detail do you want to achieve with your 3D prints? You won’t necessarily need the same accuracy for prototypes than for finished products. Factors such as the accuracy, the build size, and the layer height are very important while choosing for the 3D printing process. As an indication, here is an average of layer thicknesses achievable with these popular 3D printing technology.


  • FDM: 200 μm
  • SLS: 100 – 120µm
  • DMLS:  30 µm
  • Polyjet: 28µm


Do you need a transparent part?


Transparent 3D printed parts can totally be made using additive manufacturing. There are actually different materials and processes to reach this great result. 

  • VeroClear is a resin 3D printed using Polyjet technology. The final product made with this resin has a smooth surface which can be polished further to create near full transparency for the clear resin!
  • PETG, or Polyethylene terephthalate glycol, is possibly the clearest 3D printing filament available for FDM 3D printers. The difference between using this material and a Veroclear resin will be the accuracy! Polyjet can create highly detailed parts that FDM might never be able to reach. 


Do you know which 3D printing technology to choose? Share your choice with us. If your 3D file is ready to be printed, you can upload it on our online 3D printing service, you will get an instant quote, and receive your part printed in a few days.

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