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A good print starts its life as a stunning design. Additive manufacturing has the potential to revolutionize the way we make pretty much everything. To harness the advantages of this technology we’ve put together a set of guidelines to get the best results out of your models. Here you’ll find the most important factors to consider when designing for 3D printing.


Fused Deposition Modeling, or FDM 3D Printing, is a method of additive manufacturing where layers of materials are fused together in a pattern to create an object. The material is usually melted just past its glass transition temperature, and then extruded in a pattern next to or on top of previous extrusions, creating an object layer by layer.
In layman’s terms, a typical FDM 3D printer takes a plastic filament and squeezes it through a hot end, melting it and then depositing it in layers on the print bed. These layers are fused together, building up throughout the print, and eventually they will form the finished part.


Stereolithography – more commonly referred to as SLA 3D printing – is one of the most popular and widespread techniques in the world of additive manufacturing. It works by using a high-powered laser to harden liquid resin that is contained in a reservoir to create the desired 3D shape. In a nutshell, this process converts photosensitive liquid into 3D solid plastics in a layer-by-layer fashion using a low-power laser and photopolymerization.
SLA is one of three primary technologies adopted in 3D printing, together with fused deposition modeling (FDM) and selective laser sintering (SLS). It belongs to the resin 3D printing category. A similar technique that is usually grouped with SLA is called digital light processing (DLP). It represents a sort of evolution of the SLA process, using a projector screen instead of a laser.


HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) is a powder-based additive manufacturing process, whose parts are valued for their high-quality matte surface finish and nearly isotropic properties. The technology works by laying down an even layer of powder for each layer in the part, after which a print head applies droplets of fusing and detailing agents. Each layer is made solid, fusing it to the previous one, by thermally treating these agents.
MJF has become one of the standards in additive manufacturing for making large quantities of functional parts. The keyword, here, is “functional”, as MJF shines in the production of hardware designed for a specific purpose.


DLP stands for digital light processing and is a type of vat polymerization. Vat polymerization 3D printing technologies make use of a (liquid) photopolymer resin which is able to cure (solidify) under a light source.
In the world of vat polymerization, there are two main technologies: SLA and DLP. Naturally, both use resin and a light source to produce parts, the main difference being the type of light source which is used to cure the resin.
In order to understand DLP properly, it first makes sense to describe its predecessor, SLA. 3D printers that employ SLA, or stereolithography, use a build platform, an elevator that moves the platform upwards, a tank filled with resin, a light source, and galvanometers.


Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printers make use of a CO2 laser and a thermoplastic polymer powder to build parts. Because of the high power laser, it’s generally considered more complicated than both FDM and SLA.
SLS 3D printers consist of a powder bin, a build platform, a powder re-coater, a CO2 laser, a set of galvanometers, a set of heaters, and a powder feeder.
Generally speaking, the printing process begins with filling the powder bin with a certain amount of polymer powder. The bin is then placed into the machine, where the heating stage begins. Before printing, heaters are used to get the powder to a temperature just below its melting point.


Selective laser melting, or SLM, is a type of metal additive manufacturing or 3D printing. Often, the terms SLM and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) are used interchangeably. However, the two technologies differ slightly, in that SLM melts pure metals while DMLS fuses metal alloys.
SLM is one of the most exciting 3D printing technologies available today and is utilized both for rapid prototyping and mass production. The range of metal alloys available is fairly extensive. The end result has properties equivalent to those manufactured via traditional manufacturing processes.