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mix of features, performance, and price

What is the best professional desktop 3D printer?

There are so many different 3D printers on the market today that it can be a real challenge to choose one. When every penny of your quarterly budget counts, you want to make sure your professional 3D printer is adapted to your needs. Material compatibility, build size, ease of use, workflow, software, and many more elements come into play.

To help you cut through the clutter, we made a shortlist of some of the best professional 3D printers available this year. These benchtop and desktop FFF (fused filament fabrication) 3D printers for professionals offer a great combination of features, performance, and reliability, and come from well-established brands. They are ideal tools for rapid prototyping and iterative design processes, and are also suitable for low-volume production series. Keep in mind, though, that while part quality does depend on your printer’s performance, it also greatly relies on your choice of materials.

Towards the end of this article, we also provide a brief buying guide where you can learn more about different 3D printer specifications such as printing temperatures, layer thickness, dual extrusion, and more.

Best benchtop 3D printers for professionals in 2022: our selection

The table below recaps our selection of some of the best professional 3D printing options for office use. Our goal is to provide a quick, visual overview of the market; there are of course numerous other factors to take into account (material compatibility, certifications, customer service, software, etc.) before making the right choice.

BrandProductBuild sizeCountryPrice

Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).

Prusa ResearchOriginal Prusa i3 MK3S

This product has been reviewed by our team.

250 × 210 × 210 mm9.84 × 8.27 × 8.27 inCzech Republic$ 9991 019 €890 £144,719 ¥Buy
BCN3D TechnologiesSigma D25420 × 300 × 200 mm16.54 × 11.81 × 7.87 inSpain$ 3,9953 495 €3,561 £578,732 ¥Quote
UltimakerUltimaker S5330 × 240 × 300 mm12.99 × 9.45 × 11.81 inNetherlands$ 5,9955 495 €5,344 £868,460 ¥Quote
MakerBotMethod X190 × 190 × 196 mm7.48 × 7.48 × 7.72 inUnited States$ 6,4996 628 €5,793 £941,471 ¥Quote
Raise3DPro3 Plus

This product has been reviewed by our team.

300 × 300 × 605 mm11. 81 × 11.81 × 23.82 inUnited States$ 7,2496 249 €6,461 £1,050,119 ¥Quote
MarkforgedOnyx Pro320 × 132 × 154 mm12.6 × 5.2 × 6.06 inUnited States$ 9,60010 000 €8,557 £1,390,694 ¥Quote
StratasysF120254 × 254 × 254 mm10 × 10 × 10 inUnited States$ 12,00011 000 €10,696 £1,738,368 ¥Quote

Expand to see more specs

The products in the table are ranked by price (low to high).

BrandProductBuild sizeBuild volumeExtruder temp.CountryPrice

Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary by region, over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).

Prusa ResearchOriginal Prusa i3 MK3S

This product has been reviewed by our team.

250 × 210 × 210 mm9.84 × 8.27 × 8.27 in11.03 L300°CCzech Republic$ 9991 019 €890 £144,719 ¥Buy on Prusa
BCN3D TechnologiesSigma D25420 × 300 × 200 mm16.54 × 11.81 × 7.87 in25.2 L300°CSpain$ 3,9953 495 €3,561 £578,732 ¥Get a quote
UltimakerUltimaker S5330 × 240 × 300 mm12.99 × 9.45 × 11.81 in23.76 L280°CNetherlands$ 5,9955 495 €5,344 £868,460 ¥Get a quote
MakerBotMethod X190 × 190 × 196 mm7.48 × 7.48 × 7.72 in7.08 L260°CUnited States$ 6,4996 628 €5,793 £941,471 ¥Get a quote
Raise3DPro3 Plus

This product has been reviewed by our team.

300 × 300 × 605 mm11.81 × 11.81 × 23.82 in54.45 L300°CUnited States$ 7,2496 249 €6,461 £1,050,119 ¥Get a quote
MarkforgedOnyx Pro320 × 132 × 154 mm12. 6 × 5.2 × 6.06 in6.5 LUnited States$ 9,60010 000 €8,557 £1,390,694 ¥Get a quote
StratasysF120254 × 254 × 254 mm10 × 10 × 10 in16.39 LUnited States$ 12,00011 000 €10,696 £1,738,368 ¥Get a quote

Overview of the best professional 3D printers in 2022

In this section, we give some more context and information about each pro 3D printer from our selection.

The Prusa Research Original Prusa i3 MK3S+ is a desktop 3D printer manufactured by Prusa Research, based in the Czech Republic. Prusa Research is a well-known brand created by Josef Prusa, inventor of the open-source Prusa i3 3D printer design.

Prusa 3D printers are highly reliable machines and can produce excellent parts right out of the box. Priced just under $1,000, the MK3S+ offers a very good price-to-performance ratio. With its open chassis and customizable “everything”, it’s a great option for those that like to get manual. Professionals who are looking for easy and low-maintenance operation may want to look at options in a higher price range.

Full review: Original Prusa i3 MK3S review

Buy on Prusa Add to comparison

The BCN3D Sigma D25 is a large desktop 3D printer for office use made by BCN3D Technologies. BCN3D, or BCN3D Technologies, is based in Spain and is one of the desktop 3D printer market leaders. They produce high-quality 3D printers for professionals, the Sigma being their flagship series.

The Sigma D25 pro 3D printer offers a relatively big build volume and boasts BCN3D’s IDEX technology. This means that there are two separate print heads that can both move independently to either print two identical objects at the same time or print in mirror mode.

Contact manufacturer Get a quote Add to comparison

The Ultimaker S5 is a professional desktop 3D printer made by Ultimaker, a manufacturer based in the Netherlands. Users may control their S5 from a distance thanks to the Ultimaker App and a Wi-Fi connection. There is also an onboard camera to monitor 3D prints from a distance. Furthermore, to maximize production efficiency, it is possible to group multiple S5 3D printers together with Cura Connect.

Today, the Ultimaker S5 is often referred to as the best professional 3D printer, especially when equipped with the Pro Bundle. The Pro Bundle includes a “material station” where up to 6 spools of filament can be loaded and automatically managed (auto-switch, humidity control, etc.), and an “air manager” that closes up the build area and filters particles.

Contact manufacturer Get a quote Add to comparison

The Method X is a professional benchtop 3D printer produced by MakerBot (a Stratasys-owned brand). It was designed to 3D print ABS filament reliably and efficiently, thanks to a number of features– including a 100°C heated build chamber– than enable comprehensive environmental control.

Makerbot’s Method X is equipped with a 5-inch touchscreen with real-time feedback and status on print jobs, and offers automatic calibration. This pro 3D printer also boasts “SmartAssist Material Loading”, for fast and easy filament changing. Users can log in to the manufacturer’s proprietary CloudPrint software to monitor prints remotely at any time.

Contact manufacturer Get a quote Add to comparison

The Markforged Onyx Pro is a professional desktop 3D printer made by Markforged, a manufacturer based in Somerville, Massachusetts (USA). With its dual printhead, the Onyx Pro reinforces plastic parts with a continuous strand of fiberglass.

The main available materials for the Onyx Pro are Onyx (a carbon fiber filled nylon) and Precise PLA. Markforged advertises parts up to ten times stronger than non-reinforced plastic ones.

The MarkForged Onyx Pro is delivered with Markforged’s browser-based Eiger software, powerful and easy to use. Eiger allows precise control over the 3D printing process.

Contact manufacturer Get a quote Add to comparison

The Raise3D Pro3 Plus is a professional, industrial-grade 3D printer made by Raise3D, an ISO9001:2015 and ISO14001-certified manufacturer based in the US (California). Raise3D also has offices in the Netherlands (Rotterdam) and in China (Shanghai).

This 3D printer for office environments is a true workhorse, capable of printing for hours without any hiccups. It does an impressive job with complex overhangs and features an intuitive, user-friendly workflow. The printer comes with an air filtration system, an onboard camera, and a dual extruder. Its control software is also available as a smartphone app for convenient remote monitoring.

Raise3D’s Pro3 series also includes the Pro3, featuring a smaller build volume. Both printers are a follow-up to the Pro2 Series.

Full review: Raise3D Pro3 Plus review

Contact manufacturer Get a quote Add to comparison

Stratasys is the Apple of the 3D printing industry. Their 3D printers, including the F120, are reliable machines with industrial-grade components and printing quality. However, Stratasys 3D printers generally only work with Stratasys materials and hardware. At the moment, less than a handful of filaments are available for the Stratasys F120.

The F120 is one of the most affordable FDM printers from Stratasys and is destined to be a desktop workhorse for professionals. Stratasys emphasizes on the printer’s ease of use, durability, and industrial quality.

Contact manufacturer Get a quote Add to comparison

Professional 3D printer buying guide

There are several features and specifications to take into account when choosing the best professional 3D printer for your needs.

Technology

For this professional desktop 3D printer selection, we focused on FFF (fused filament fabrication) 3D printers. They are ideal for creating both prototypes and end-use parts.

For professionals in dental or jewelry industries where high precision and detail are required, resin 3D printers are more adapted, with SLA, DLP, or LCD-based technologies.

There are also desktop SLS 3D printers (powder 3D printers), PEEK 3D printers, continuous fiber 3D printers, and more for advanced applications. Explore these topics with all of our other 3D printer guides.

Build plate or print bed

A heated print bed is mandatory for users that need to 3D print with ABS and other more demanding materials. The heat helps prevent warping and offers better first-layer adhesion.

While today’s 3D printers almost always feature heated build plates, they don’t all reach the same temperatures. It is best to know which thermoplastics you will be printing and to choose your desktop 3D printer accordingly.

Some professional 3D printers have interchangeable build trays to help speed up the workflow, enabling users to quickly launch new prints while the previous build plate cools down. On higher-end 3D printers, there can even be vacuum systems for instant part release from the print bed.

Print head

PLA and ABS can be considered the most common and basic 3D printing materials in general. Professionals, however, often need to print more complex materials, such as Nylon, Polycarbonate, PETG, ASA, or other engineering-grade polymers.

They don’t all have the same melting or glass transition temperature and therefore have to be 3D printed at different temperatures. For example, PLA can be extruded at around 200°C, PC at around 260°C, and some high-performance materials like PEEK or PEKK need the extruder to reach at least 450°C.

Popular professional filaments also include plastics filled with carbon fiber or glass fiber for increased strength and resistance. These materials are abrasive and require tough nozzles; many professional printers are already compatible with these composites, but it’s important to make sure beforehand.

Some 3D printers are compatible with multiple types of nozzles with varying diameters, and even paste-type print heads exist to 3D print clay.

Automatic calibration

Most professional 3D printer systems are equipped with automatic calibration features to make the process as plug-n-play as possible. It’s important to recalibrate a 3D printer from time to time to ensure consistent print quality.

There are two main types of calibration:

  • Print bed leveling (making sure the print bed is perfectly parallel to the nozzle, and not tilted)
  • Nozzle offset (determining the right gap between the nozzle and the print bed)

Most 3D printers for professionals feature a probe attached to the print head to automate these processes instead of users having to use a piece of paper or business card.

Some 3D printers also have NFC readers to automatically adjust their temperature settings according to the detected material (so long as the spool is chipped, too).

Dual extrusion and independent dual extrusion (IDEX)

A dual extruder enables users to 3D print with two different colors or materials simultaneously, including soluble support material for complex objects.

If there are two separate print heads, the system is referred to as IDEX (independent dual extruder). BCN3D Technologies was one of the first manufacturers to offer this feature a few years back.

In addition to being able to 3D print two materials at a time, independent dual extrusion offers different 3D printing possibilities:

  • Duplication mode: 3D prints two identical objects at the same time.
  • Mirror mode: to 3D print an object twice as fast as with just one extruder, each nozzle completes one-half of the object.

Onboard camera

Some 3D printers are equipped with an onboard camera that monitors prints remotely or saves time-lapse videos. This feature can be useful if the printer must be left unattended for long periods of time. We found it to be quite practical when we launched a long print for our Pro3 Plus review.

With the right 3D software, onboard cameras can help with quality control. Quality control can also be done during post-processing workflows with a metrology 3D scanner.

Minimum layer thickness

3D print quality is intricately linked to layer thickness, a.k.a. layer height or Z resolution. It’s the minimum height of each successive layer that forms the 3D printed object. The thinner the layers, the less they are distinguishable and the smoother the object will be (similar to the ratio of pixels in an image).

Thinner layers also mean that more layers are required to complete the object, which translates into more 3D print time. Layer thickness can be adjusted depending on if you need a quick print (thicker) or a high-resolution print (thinner).

The typical minimum layer thickness for mid-range FFF 3D printers is 100 microns or 0.1 millimeters, but it can go down to 0.01 mm in some cases.

A simple representation of layer height. Source: Primantes3D

Build volume

The build volume is the maximum size that your prints can be. If you need a bigger volume than what the 3D printers in this guide provide, you may be interested in these selections:

  • L: Large volume 3D printers
  • XL: Large format 3D printers
  • XXL: Large scale 3D printers

Now, there are even large-sized resin 3D printers for those that need both volume and finer surface quality.

Closed frame

Many variables can interfere with 3D print quality, such as temperature changes and room drafts. Hence, 3D printers with an enclosed build chamber tend to provide better quality prints, in addition to reducing noise, odors, and– with a HEPA filter– harmful particle emissions.

A closed frame is almost mandatory when 3D printing with basically anything other than PLA. Today it is quite rare to see a professional 3D printer without an enclosure.

FAQ

Are 3D printers safe?

With basic precaution, 3D printers are relatively safe to use, although there has been some concern over harmful particle emissions from the melted filament. It’s best to use closed 3D printers with filters and to use 3D printers in well-ventilated areas. Users should also be careful not to burn themselves on a hot build plate or extruder; some 3D printers feature door safety sensors to lock the printer while it is printing.

Can 3D printers print metal? What 3D printers can print metal?

Yes, some FFF 3D printers are able to print metal-filled filaments. This is called metal FFF. Once the part has been 3D printed, however, it must undergo two processes called debinding and sintering. Other types of 3D printers (much more expensive and industrial-grade) are able to 3D print metal powder using various metal 3D printing technologies like L-PBF (laser powder bed fusion) or metal binder jetting, among others.

What is the best 3D printer for jewelry?

For jewelry, resin 3D printers are more adapted than FFF 3D printers. They use SLA, DLP, or LCD-based technologies to produce objects with fine details and smooth surfaces.

Can 3D printers print in color?

Yes, some 3D printers can print in color. They are called full-color 3D printers and often use powder-based technologies. Systems that mix CMYK filaments exist, but cannot reproduce photorealistic colors like powder-based 3D printers.

How a 3D printer works, what can be printed on a 3D printer

The 3D printer is a technology that allows you to create real objects from a digital model. It all started in the 80s under the name "rapid prototyping", which was the goal of the technology: to create a prototype faster and cheaper. A lot has changed since then, and today 3D printers allow you to create anything you can imagine.

Contents:

  • What is 3D printing?
  • How does a 3D printer work?
  • What can be printed?

The 3D printer allows you to create objects that are almost identical to their virtual models. That is why the scope of these technologies is so wide.

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process because, unlike traditional subtractive manufacturing, 3D printing does not remove material, but adds it, layer by layer—that is, it builds or grows.

  1. In the first step of printing, the data from the drawing or 3D model is read by the printer.
  2. Next is the sequential overlay of layers.
  3. These layers, consisting of sheet material, liquid or powder, are combined with each other, turning into the final form.

With limited production of parts, 3D printing will be faster and cheaper. The world of 3D printing does not stand still and therefore there are more and more different technologies competing with each other on the market. The difference lies in the printing process itself. Some technologies create layers by softening or melting the material, then they provide layer-by-layer application of this same material. Other technologies involve the use of liquid materials, which acquire a solid form in the process under the influence of various factors.

In order to print something , you first need a 3D model of the object, which you can create in a 3D modeling program (CAD - Computer Aided Design), or use a 3D scanner to scan the object you want print. There are also easier options, such as looking for models on the internet that have been created and made available to other people.

Once your design is ready, all you need to do is import it into the Slicer, a program that converts the model into codes and instructions for a 3D printer, most of the programs are open source and free. The slicer will convert your project into a gcode file ready to be printed as a physical object. Simply save the file to the included SD card and insert it into your 3D printer and hit print.

The whole process can take several hours and sometimes several days. It all depends on the size, material and complexity of the model. Some 3D printers use two different materials. One of them is part of the model itself, the other acts as a prop that supports parts of the model hanging in the air. The second material is subsequently removed.

How does a 3D printer work?

Although there are several 3D printing technologies, most create an object by building up many successive thin layers of material. Typically desktop 3D printers use plastic filaments (1) which are fed into the printer by the feeder (2) . The filament melts in the print head (3) which extrudes the material onto the platform (4) creating the object layer by layer. Once the printer starts printing, all you have to do is wait - it's easy.

Of course, as you become an advanced user, playing with the settings and tweaking your printer can lead to even better results.

What can be 3D printed?

The possibilities of 3D printers are endless and they are now becoming a common tool in fields such as engineering, industrial design, manufacturing and architecture. Here are some typical usage examples:

Custom Models

Create custom products that perfectly match your needs in terms of size and shape. Do something that would be impossible with any other technology.

Rapid Prototyping

3D printing allows you to quickly create a model or prototype, helping engineers, designers and companies get feedback on their projects in a short time.

Complex geometry

Models that are hard to imagine can be easily created with a 3D printer. These models are good for teaching others about complex geometry in a fun and useful way.

Cost reduction

The cost of 3D printing end-use parts and prototypes is low due to the materials and technology used. Reduced production time and material consumption as you can print models multiple times using only the material you need.

How to choose and buy a 3D printer? →

All about 3D printing. additive manufacturing. Basic concepts.

  • 1 Technology
  • 2 Terminology
  • 3 Fundamentals
  • 4 Printing Technologies
  • 5 3D printers
  • 6 Application
  • 7 Domestic and hobby use
  • 8 Clothing
  • 9 3D bioprinting
  • 10 3D printing of implants and medical devices
  • 11 3D printing services
  • 12 Research into new applications
  • 13 Intellectual property
  • 14 Influence of 3D printing
  • 15 Space research
  • 16 Social change
  • 17 Firearms

Technology




Charles Hull - the father of modern 3D printing
3D printing is based on the concept of building an object in successive layers that display the contours of the model. In fact, 3D printing is the complete opposite of traditional mechanical production and processing methods such as milling or cutting, where the appearance of the product is formed by removing excess material (so-called "subtractive manufacturing").
3D printers are computer-controlled machines that build parts in an additive way. Although 3D printing technology appeared in the 80s of the last century, 3D printers were widely used commercially only in the early 2010s. The first viable 3D printer was created by Charles Hull, one of the founders of 3D Systems Corporation. At the beginning of the 21st century, there was a significant increase in sales, which led to a sharp drop in the cost of devices. According to the consulting firm Wohlers Associates, the global market for 3D printers and related services reached $2.2 billion in 2012, growing by 29%.% compared to 2011.
3D printing technologies are used for prototyping and distributed manufacturing in architecture, construction, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering and medical industries, bioengineering (to create artificial fabrics), fashion and footwear, jewelry, education, geographic information systems, food industry and many other areas. According to research, open source home 3D printers will allow you to win back the capital costs of your own purchase through the economy of household production of items.

Terminology




Additive manufacturing involves the construction of objects by adding the necessary material, and not by removing the excess, as is the case with subtractive methods
The term "additive manufacturing" refers to the technology of creating objects by applying successive layers material. Models made using the additive method can be used at any stage of production - both for the production of prototypes (so-called rapid prototyping) and as finished products themselves (so-called rapid production).
In manufacturing, especially machining, the term "subtractive" implies more traditional methods and is a retronym coined in recent years to distinguish between traditional methods and new additive methods. Although traditional manufacturing has used essentially "additive" methods for centuries (such as riveting, welding, and screwing), they lack a 3D information technology component. Machining, on the other hand, (the production of parts of an exact shape), as a rule, is based on subtractive methods - filing, milling, drilling and grinding.
The term "stereolithography" was defined by Charles Hull in a 1984 patent as "a system for generating three-dimensional objects by layering".

Fundamentals


3D printed models

3D models are created by hand-held computer graphic design or 3D scanning. Hand modeling, or the preparation of geometric data for the creation of 3D computer graphics, is somewhat like sculpture. 3D scanning is the automatic collection and analysis of data from a real object, namely shape, color and other characteristics, with subsequent conversion into a digital three-dimensional model.
Both manual and automatic creation of 3D printed models can be difficult for the average user. In this regard, 3D printed marketplaces have become widespread in recent years. Some of the more popular examples include Shapeways, Thingiverse, and Threeding.
3D printing


The following digital models are used as drawings for 3D printed objects , powder, paper or sheet material, building a 3D model from a series of cross sections. These layers, corresponding to virtual cross-sections in the CAD model, are connected or fused together to create an object of a given shape. The main advantage of this method is the ability to create geometric shapes of almost unlimited complexity.
"Resolution" of the printer means the thickness of the applied layers (Z-axis) and the accuracy of positioning the print head in the horizontal plane (along the X and Y axes). Resolution is measured in DPI (dots per inch) or micrometers (the obsolete term is "micron"). Typical layer thicknesses are 100µm (250 DPI), although some devices like the Objet Connex and 3D Systems ProJet are capable of printing layers as thin as 16µm (1600 DPI). The resolution on the X and Y axes is similar to that of conventional 2D laser printers. A typical particle size is about 50-100µm (510 to 250 DPI) in diameter.

One of the methods for obtaining a digital model is 3D scanning. Pictured here is a MakerBot Digitizer
3D Scanner Building a model using modern technology takes hours to days, depending on the method used and the size and complexity of the model. Industrial additive systems can typically reduce the time to a few hours, but it all depends on the type of plant, as well as the size and number of models produced at the same time.
Traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding can be cheaper for large-scale production of polymer products, but additive manufacturing has advantages for small-scale production, allowing for higher production rates and design flexibility, along with increased cost per unit produced. In addition, desktop 3D printers allow designers and developers to create concept models and prototypes without leaving the office.
Machining

FDM Type 3D Printers
Although the resolution of the printers is sufficient for most projects, printing slightly oversized objects and then subtractive machining with high precision tools allows for more accurate models.
The LUMEX Avance-25 is an example of devices with a similar combined manufacturing and processing method. Some additive manufacturing methods allow for the use of multiple materials, as well as different colors, within a single production run. Many of the 3D printers use "supports" or "supports" during printing. Supports are needed to build model fragments that are not in contact with the underlying layers or the working platform. The supports themselves are not part of the given model, and upon completion of printing, they either break off (in the case of using the same material as for printing the model itself), or dissolve (usually in water or acetone - depending on the material used to create the supports). ).

Printing technologies


Since the late 1970s, several 3D printing methods have come into being. The first printers were large, expensive and very limited.

Complete skull with supports not yet removed

A wide variety of additive manufacturing methods are now available. The main differences are in the layering method and consumables used. Some methods rely on melting or softening materials to create layers: these include selective laser sintering (SLS), selective laser melting (SLM), direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), fusing deposition printing (FDM or FFF). Another trend has been the production of solid models by polymerization of liquid materials, known as stereolithography (SLA).
In the case of lamination of sheet materials (LOM), thin layers of material are cut to the required contour, and then joined into a single whole. Paper, polymers and metals can be used as LOM materials. Each of these methods has its own advantages and disadvantages, which is why some companies offer a choice of consumables for building a model - polymer or powder. LOM printers often use regular office paper to build durable prototypes. The key points when choosing the right device are the speed of printing, the price of a 3D printer, the cost of printed prototypes, as well as the cost and range of compatible consumables.

Printers that produce full-fledged metal models are quite expensive, but it is possible to use less expensive devices for the production of molds and subsequent casting of metal parts.
The main methods of additive manufacturing are presented in the table:


Method Technology Materials used
Extrusion Fused deposition modeling (FDM or FFF) Thermoplastics (such as polylactide (PLA), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), etc. )
Wire Manufacture of arbitrary shapes by electron beam fusing (EBFȝ) Virtually all metal alloys
Powder Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) Virtually all metal alloys
Electron Beam Melting (EBM) Titanium alloys
Selective laser melting (SLM) Titanium alloys, cobalt-chromium alloys, stainless steel, aluminum
Selective heat sintering (SHS) Powder thermoplastics
Selective laser sintering (SLS) Thermoplastics, metal powders, ceramic powders
Inkjet 3D Inkjet(3DP) Gypsum, plastics, metal powders, sand mixtures
Lamination Laminating Objects (LOM) Paper, metal foil, plastic film
Polymerization Stereolithography (SLA) Photopolymers
Digital LED projection (DLP) Photopolymers

Extrusion Printing

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM/FFF) was developed by S. Scott Trump in the late 1980s and commercialized in the 1990s by Stratasys, a company of which Trump himself is a founding member. Due to the expiration of the patent, there is a large community of open source 3D printer developers as well as commercial organizations using the technology. As a consequence, the cost of devices has decreased by two orders of magnitude since the invention of the technology.
3D printers range from simple do-it-yourself printers to plastic...
Fusion printing process involves the creation of layers by extrusion of a fast-curing material in the form of microdrops or thin jets. Typically, consumable material (such as thermoplastic) comes in the form of spools from which the material is fed into a printhead called an "extruder". The extruder heats the material to its melting temperature, followed by extrusion of the molten mass through a nozzle. The extruder itself is driven by stepper motors or servomotors to position the printhead in three planes. The movement of the extruder is controlled by a manufacturing software (CAM) linked to a microcontroller.
A variety of polymers are used as consumables, including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC), polylactide (PLA), high pressure polyethylene (HDPE), polycarbonate-ABS blends, polyphenylene sulfone (PPSU), etc. Typically, polymer supplied in the form of a filler made of pure plastic. There are several projects in the 3D printing enthusiast community that aim to recycle used plastic into materials for 3D printing. The projects are based on the production of consumables using shredders and melters.

FDM/FFF technology has certain limitations on the complexity of the generated geometric shapes. For example, the creation of suspended structures (such as stalactites) is impossible by itself, due to the lack of necessary support. This limitation is compensated by the creation of temporary support structures that are removed after printing is completed.
Powder print

One of the additive manufacturing methods is selective sintering of powder materials. Model layers are drawn (sintered) in a thin layer of powdered material, after which the work platform is lowered and a new layer of powder is applied. The process is repeated until a complete model is obtained. The unused material remains in the working chamber and serves to support the overhanging layers without requiring the creation of special supports.

The most common methods are based on laser sintering: selective laser sintering (SLS) for working with metals and polymers (e.g. polyamide (PA), glass fiber reinforced polyamide (PA-GF), glass fiber (GF), polyetheretherketone) (PEEK), polystyrene (PS), alumide, carbon fiber reinforced polyamide (Carbonmide), elastomers) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).
... to expensive industrial plants that work with metals
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) was developed and patented by Carl Deckard and Joseph Beeman of the University of Texas at Austin in the mid-1080s under the auspices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). A similar method was patented by R. F. Householder in 1979, but has not been commercialized.

Selective laser melting (SLM) is characterized by the fact that it does not sinter, but actually melts the powder at the points of contact with a powerful laser beam, allowing you to create high-density materials that are similar in terms of mechanical characteristics to products made by traditional methods.

Electron Beam Melting (EBM) is a similar method for the additive manufacturing of metal parts (such as titanium alloys), but using electron beams instead of lasers. EBM is based on melting metal powders layer by layer in a vacuum chamber. In contrast to sintering at temperatures below melting thresholds, models made by electron beam melting are characterized by solidity with a corresponding high strength.

Finally, there is the 3D inkjet printing method. In this case, a binder is applied to thin layers of powder (gypsum or plastic) in accordance with the contours of successive layers of the digital model. The process is repeated until the finished model is obtained. The technology provides a wide range of applications, including the creation of color models, suspended structures, the use of elastomers. The design of models can be strengthened by subsequent impregnation with wax or polymers.

Lamination


FDM 3D printers are the most popular among hobbyists and enthusiasts
Some printers use paper as a material for building models, thereby reducing the cost of printing. Such devices experienced the peak of popularity in the 1990s. The technology consists in cutting out the layers of the model from paper using a carbon dioxide laser with simultaneous lamination of the contours to form the finished product.

In 2005, Mcor Technologies Ltd developed a variant of the technology that uses plain office paper, a tungsten carbide blade instead of a laser, and selective adhesive application.

There are also device variants that laminate thin metal and plastic sheets.

Photopolymerization


3D printing allows you to create functional monolithic parts of complex geometric shapes, like this jet engine nozzle
Stereolithography technology was patented by Charles Hull in 1986. Photopolymerization is primarily used in stereolithography (SLA) to create solid objects from liquid materials. This method differs significantly from previous attempts, from the sculptural portraits of François Willem (1830-1905) to photopolymerization by the Matsubara method (1974).

The Digital Projection Method (DLP) uses liquid photopolymer resins that are cured by exposure to ultraviolet light emitted from digital projectors in a coated working chamber. After the material has hardened, the working platform is immersed to a depth equal to the thickness of one layer, and the liquid polymer is irradiated again. The procedure is repeated until the completion of the model building. An example of a rapid prototyping system using digital LED projectors is the EnvisionTEC Perfactory.

Inkjet printers (eg Objet PolyJet) spray thin layers (16-30µm) of photopolymer onto the build platform until a complete model is obtained. Each layer is irradiated with an ultraviolet beam until hardened. The result is a model ready for immediate use. The gel-like support material used to support the components of geometrically complex models is removed after the model has been handcrafted and washed. The technology allows the use of elastomers.

Ultra-precise detailing of models can be achieved using multiphoton polymerization. This method is reduced to drawing the contours of a three-dimensional object with a focused laser beam. Due to non-linear photoexcitation, the material solidifies only at the focusing points of the laser beam. This method makes it easy to achieve resolutions above 100 µm, as well as build complex structures with moving and interacting parts.

Another popular method is curing with LED projectors or "projection stereolithography".

Projection stereolithography

This method involves dividing a 3D digital model into horizontal layers, converting each layer into a 2D projection similar to photomasks. The 2D images are projected onto successive layers of photopolymer resin that harden according to the projected contours.

In some systems, the projectors are located at the bottom, helping to level the surface of the photopolymer material when the model moves vertically (in this case, the build platform with the applied layers moves up, rather than sinking into the material) and reduces the production cycle to minutes instead of hours.

The technology allows you to create models with layers of several materials with different curing rates.

Some commercial models, such as the Objet Connex, apply resin using small nozzles.

3D printers


Industrial plants

Industrial adoption of additive manufacturing is proceeding at a rapid pace. For example, US-Israeli joint venture Stratasys supplies $2,000 to $500,000 additive manufacturing machines, while General Electric uses high-end machines to produce gas turbine parts.
Home appliances


LOM takes papier-mâché to the next level The development of 3D printers for home use is being pursued by a growing number of companies and enthusiasts. Most of the work is done by amateurs for their own and public needs, with help from the academic community and hackers.

The oldest and longest running project in the desktop 3D printer category is RepRap. The RepRap project aims to create free and open source (FOSH) 3D printers provided under the GNU General Public License. RepRap devices are capable of printing custom-designed plastic components that can be used to build clones of the original device. Individual RepRap devices have been successfully applied to the production of printed circuit boards and metal parts.

Due to open access to drawings of RepRap printers, many of the projects adopt the technical solutions of analogues, thus creating a semblance of an ecosystem consisting mostly of freely modifiable devices. The wide availability of open source designs only encourages variations. On the other hand, there is a significant variation in the level of quality and complexity of both the designs themselves and the devices manufactured on their basis. The rapid development of open source 3D printers is leading to a rise in popularity and the emergence of public and commercial portals (such as Thingiverse or Cubify) offering a variety of printable 3D designs. In addition, the development of technology contributes to the sustainable development of local economies through the possibility of using locally available materials for the production of printers.
Stereolithographic 3D printers are often used in dental prosthetics

The cost of 3D printers has been declining at a significant rate since around 2010: devices that cost $20,000 at the time are now $1,000 or less. Many companies and individual developers are already offering budget RepRap kits under $500. The [email protected] open source project has led to the development of general purpose printers capable of printing anything that can be squeezed through a nozzle, from chocolate to silicone putty and chemicals.
Printers based on this design have been available as kits since 2012 for about $2,000. Some 3D printers, including the mUVe 3D and Lumifold, are designed from the ground up for maximum affordability, with the Peachy Printer being priced around $100. .
Publicly funded Kickstarter-funded professional printers often perform well: Rapide 3D printers are quiet and fumes-free at $1499. 3D Doodler's '3D Printing Pen' Raised $2.3M in Kickstarter donations, with a selling price of $99 for the device itself. True, it is difficult to call the 3D Doodler a full-fledged 3D printer.

3D Systems Cube is a popular consumer 3D printer

As prices drop, 3D printers are becoming more attractive for consumer production. In addition, home use of 3D printing technologies can reduce the environmental footprint of industry by reducing the volume of consumables and the energy and fuel costs of transporting materials and goods.

In parallel with the creation of home 3D-printing devices, the development of devices for processing household waste into printed materials, the so-called. Recyclebot. For example, the commercial model Filastrucer was designed to recycle plastic waste (shampoo bottles, milk containers) into inexpensive consumables for RepRap printers. Such methods of household disposal are not only practical, but also have a positive impact on the ecological situation.

The development and customization of RepRap 3D printers has created a new category of semi-professional printers for small businesses. Manufacturers such as Solidoodle, RoBo and RepRapPro offer kits for under $1,000. The accuracy of these devices is between industrial and consumer printers. Recently, high-performance printers using a delta-shaped coordinate system, or the so-called "delta robots", are gaining popularity. Some companies offer software to support printers made by other companies.

Application



Using LED projectors helps reduce the cost of stereolithography printers. In the illustration DLP printer Nova

Three-dimensional printing allows you to equalize the cost of manufacturing one part and mass production, which poses a threat to economies of scale. The impact of 3D printing may be similar to the introduction of manufacture. In the 1450s, no one could predict the consequences of the printing press, in the 1750s, no one took the steam engine seriously, and transistors 19The 50s seemed like a curious innovation. But the technology continues to evolve and is likely to have an impact on every scientific and industrial branch with which it comes into contact.

The earliest application of additive manufacturing can be considered rapid prototyping, aimed at reducing the development time of new parts and devices compared to earlier subtractive methods (too slow and expensive). The improvement of additive manufacturing technologies leads to their spread in various fields of science and industry. The production of parts previously only available through machining is now possible through additive methods, and at a better price.
Applications include breadboarding, prototyping, molding, architecture, education, mapping, healthcare, retail, etc.
Industrial applications:
Rapid prototyping: Industrial 3D printers have been used for rapid prototyping and research since the early 1980s . As a rule, these are quite large installations using powder metals, sand mixtures, plastics and paper. Such devices are often used by universities and commercial companies.

Advances in rapid prototyping have led to the creation of materials suitable for the production of final products, which in turn has contributed to the development of 3D production of finished products as an alternative to traditional methods. One of the advantages of fast production is the relatively low cost of manufacturing small batches.

Rapid production: Rapid production remains a fairly new technique whose possibilities have not yet been fully explored. Nevertheless, many experts tend to consider rapid production a new level of technology. Some of the most promising areas for rapid prototyping to adapt to rapid manufacturing are selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal sintering (DMLS).
Bulk customization: Some companies offer services for customizing objects using simplified software and then creating unique custom 3D models. One of the most popular areas was the manufacture of cell phone cases. In particular, Nokia has made publicly available the designs of its phone cases for user customization and 3D printing.
Mass production: The current low print speed of 3D printers limits their use in mass production. To combat this shortcoming, some FDM devices are equipped with multiple extruders, allowing you to print different colors, different polymers, and even create several models at the same time. In general, this approach increases productivity without requiring the use of multiple printers - a single microcontroller is enough to operate multiple printheads.

Devices with multiple extruders allow the creation of several identical objects from only one digital model, but at the same time allow the use of different materials and colors. The print speed increases in proportion to the number of print heads. In addition, certain energy savings are achieved through the use of a common working chamber, which often requires heating. Together, these two points reduce the cost of the process.

Many printers are equipped with dual printheads, however this configuration is only used for printing single models in different colors and materials.

Consumer and hobby use


Today, consumer 3D printing mainly attracts the attention of enthusiasts and hobbyists, while practical use is quite limited. However, 3D printers have already been used to print working mechanical clocks, woodworking gears, jewelry, and more. Home 3D printing websites often offer designs for hooks, doorknobs, massage tools, and more.

3D printing is also being used in hobby veterinary medicine and zoology – in 2013, a 3D printed prosthesis allowed a duckling to stand up, and hermit crabs love stylish 3D printed shells. 3D printers are widely used for the domestic production of jewelry - necklaces, rings, handbags, etc.

The [email protected] open project aims to develop general purpose home printers. The devices have been tested in research environments using the latest 3D printing technologies for the production of chemical compounds. The printer can print any material suitable for extrusion from a syringe in the form of a liquid or paste. The development is aimed at the possibility of home production of medicines and household chemicals in remote areas of residence.

Student project OpenReflex resulted in a design for an analog SLR camera suitable for 3D printing.

Clothing


3D printing is gaining ground in the fashion world as couturiers use printers to experiment with swimwear, shoes and dresses. Commercial applications include rapid prototyping and 3D printing of professional athletic shoes - the Vapor Laser Talon for soccer players and New Balance for track and field athletes.

3D bioprinting



EBM titanium medical implants

3D printing is currently being researched by biotech companies and academic institutions. The research is aimed at exploring the possibility of using inkjet/drip 3D printing in tissue engineering to create artificial organs. The technology is based on the application of layers of living cells on a gel substrate or sugar matrix, with a gradual layer-by-layer build-up to create three-dimensional structures, including vascular systems. The first 3D tissue printing production system based on NovoGen bioprinting technology was introduced in 2009year. A number of terms are used to describe this research area: organ printing, bioprinting, computer tissue engineering, etc.

One of the pioneers of 3D printing, research company Organovo, conducts laboratory research and develops the production of functional 3D human tissue samples for use in medical and therapeutic research. For bioprinting, the company uses a NovoGen MMX 3D printer. Organovo believes that bioprinting will speed up the testing of new medicines before clinical trials, saving time and money invested in drug development. In the long term, Organovo hopes to adapt bioprinting technology for graft and surgical applications.

3D printing of implants and medical devices


3D printing is used to create implants and devices used in medicine. Successful surgeries include examples such as titanium pelvic and jaw implants and plastic tracheal splints. The most widespread use of 3D printing is expected in the production of hearing aids and dentistry. In March 2014, Swansea surgeons used 3D printing to reconstruct the face of a motorcyclist who was seriously injured in a road accident.

3D printing services


Some companies offer online 3D printing services available to individuals and industrial companies. The customer is required to upload a 3D design to the site, after which the model is printed using industrial installations. The finished product is either delivered to the customer or subject to pickup.

Exploring new applications



3D printing makes it possible to create fully functional metal products, including weapons.
Future applications of 3D printing may include the creation of open source scientific equipment for use in open laboratories and other scientific applications - fossil reconstruction in paleontology, the creation of duplicates of priceless archaeological artifacts, the reconstruction of bones and body parts for forensic analysis, the reconstruction of heavily damaged evidence collected from crime scenes. The technology is also being considered for application in construction.

In 2005, academic journals began to publish materials on the possibility of using 3D printing technologies in art. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine included 3D design in their list of the 100 most significant achievements of the year. The Victoria and Albert Museum at the London Design Festival in 2011 presented an exhibition by Murray Moss entitled "Industrial Revolution 2.0: how the material world materializes again", dedicated to 3D printing technologies.

In 2012, a University of Glasgow pilot project showed that 3D printing could be used to produce chemical compounds, including hitherto unknown ones. The project printed chemical storage vessels into which “chemical ink” was injected using additive machines and then reacted. The viability of the technology was proven by the production of new compounds, but a specific practical application was not pursued during the experiment. Cornell Creative Machines has confirmed the feasibility of creating food products using hydrocolloid 3D printing. Professor Leroy Cronin of the University of Glasgow has suggested using "chemical ink" to print medicines.

The use of 3D scanning technology makes it possible to create replicas of real objects without the use of casting methods, which are expensive, difficult to perform and can have a destructive effect in cases of precious and fragile objects of cultural heritage.

An additional example of 3D printing technologies under development is the use of additive manufacturing in construction. This could make it possible to accelerate the pace of construction while reducing costs. In particular, the possibility of using technology to build space colonies is being considered. For example, the Sinterhab project aims to explore the possibility of additive manufacturing of lunar bases using lunar regolith as the main building material. Instead of using binding materials, the possibility of microwave sintering of regolith into solid building blocks is being considered.

Additive manufacturing allows you to create waveguides, sleeves and bends in terahertz devices. The high geometric complexity of such products could not be achieved by traditional production methods. A commercially available professional EDEN 260V setup was used to create structures with a resolution of 100 microns. The printed structures were galvanized with gold to create a terahertz plasmonic apparatus.

China allocated almost $500 million. for the development of 10 national institutes for the development of 3D printing technologies. In 2013, Chinese scientists began printing living cartilage, liver and kidney tissue using specialized 3D bioprinters. Researchers at Hangzhou Dianqi University have even developed their own 3D bioprinter for this challenging task, dubbed Regenovo. One of Regenovo's developers, Xu Mingeng, said it takes less than an hour for the printer to produce a small sample of liver tissue or a four to five inch sample of ear cartilage. Xu predicts the emergence of the first full-fledged printed artificial organs within the next 10-20 years. That same year, researchers at the Belgian Hasselt University successfully printed a new jaw for an 83-year-old woman. After the implant is implanted, the patient can chew, talk and breathe normally.

In Bahrain, sandstone-like 3D printing has created unique structures to support coral growth and restore damaged reefs. These structures have a more natural shape than previously used structures and do not have the acidity of concrete.

Intellectual property



Section of liver tissue printed by Organovo, which is working to improve 3D printing technology for the production of artificial organs
3D printing has been around for decades, and many aspects of the technology are subject to patents, copyrights, and trademark protection. However, from a legal point of view, it is not entirely clear how intellectual property protection laws will be applied in practice if 3D printers become widely used.
distribution and will be used in household production of goods for personal use, non-commercial use or for sale.

Any of the protective measures may negatively affect the distribution of designs used in 3D printing or the sale of printed products. The use of protected technologies may require the permission of the owner, which in turn will require the payment of royalties.

Patents cover certain processes, devices, and materials. The duration of patents varies from country to country.

Often, copyright extends to the expression of ideas in the form of material objects and lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years. Thus, if someone creates a statue and obtains copyright, it will be illegal to distribute designs for printing of an identical or similar statue.

Influence of 3D printing


Additive manufacturing requires manufacturing companies to be flexible and constantly improve available technologies to stay competitive. Advocates of additive manufacturing predict that the opposition between 3D printing and globalization will escalate as home production displaces trade in goods between consumers and large manufacturers. In reality, the integration of additive technologies into commercial production serves as a complement to traditional subtractive methods, rather than a complete replacement for the latter.

Space exploration


In 2010, work began on the application of 3D printing in zero gravity and low gravity. The main goal is to create hand tools and more complex devices "as needed" instead of using valuable cargo volume and fuel to deliver finished products to orbit.
Even NASA is interested in 3D printing
At the same time, NASA is conducting joint tests with Made in Space to assess the potential of 3D printing to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of space exploration. Nasa's additive-manufactured rocket parts were successfully tested in July 2013, with two fuel injectors performing on par with conventionally produced parts during operational tests subjecting the parts to temperatures of around 3,300°C and high pressure levels. It is noteworthy that NASA is preparing to launch a 3D printer into space: the agency is going to demonstrate the possibility of creating spare parts directly in orbit, instead of expensive transportation from the ground.

Social change


The topic of social and cultural change as a result of the introduction of commercially available additive technologies has been discussed by writers and sociologists since the 1950s. One of the most interesting assumptions was the possible blurring of boundaries between everyday life and workplaces as a result of the massive introduction of 3D printers into the home. It also points to the ease of transferring digital designs, which, in combination with local production, will help reduce the need for global transportation. Finally, copyright protection may change to reflect the ease of additive manufacturing of many products.

Firearms


In 2012, US company Defense Distributed released plans to create a "design of a functional plastic weapon that could be downloaded and played by anyone with access to a 3D printer." Defense Distributed has developed a 3D printed version of the receiver for the AR-15 rifle, capable of withstanding more than 650 shots, and a 30-round magazine for the M-16 rifle.


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