For almost four decades now countless groups of super smart people have been advancing the technology that we simply call 3D printing. The more technical and accurate description of the process and technology is additive manufacturing but the concept is pretty straightforward. A 3D model image is sliced into tool paths and then sent to a 3D printer that lays down molten plastic (FDM/FFF), laser sinters a resin (SLA) or powder (SLS), or jets melted materials a single layer at a time and repeats this process to recreate the digital 3D model.
Now that we are done with the history lesson let's talk about how you choose the 3D printing process and material that is right for you? One of the important things to consider during the rapid prototyping process is the intended end use of the prototype or model. Will it be functional? Just it simply need to look good for demo or presentation purposes? Are you using it for an injection mold or jewelry mold? These are all common scenarios that you need to discuss before committing to a 3D printing format.
Below are the four most common additive manufacturing options available today.