3D printing methods – The overview of the most popular methods

In this article, all currently used 3D printing processes are presented. In doing so, I'll briefly go over how it works and show you how each process works with videos. For some of them I have also worked out more detailed information. You can find the links at the end of each section for the respective procedure.

The 3D printing methods presented here are:

3D printing process
The most popular 3D printing methods in the threedom overview

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is probably the best known 3D printing process, as 3D printers using the FDM process are often shown in all media when the topic is discussed. Understandably so, because the barrier to entry is low due to the relatively low cost of a 3D printer or 3D printer kit. As a result, we see them more and more at trade shows, small events, with friends and family.

In this 3D printing process, a plastic wire, more commonly known as filament, is melted in the hot end of the FDM printer and applied to the print bed (also called a heated bed when heated) in layers.

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) uses a liquid resin (also called resin) as the starting material. With SLA technology, the resin is illuminated and hardened with pinpoint accuracy using a laser.

Digital Light Processing (DLP)

The 3D printing process Digital Light Processing (DLP) also uses liquid resin as the starting material, the difference to the SLA process here being the light-emitting source. In the DLP process, a projector or LCD display serves as the light source. Layer by layer, the light hardens the material at the desired location.

Selective laser melting (SLM)

Metal powder is the starting material of the 3D printing process called selective laser melting (SLM). This material is brought into the pressure chamber where it is heated and melted by a laser. Each new layer is thus fused with the one below it, and the 3D object is created step by step.

Selective laser sintering (SLS)

There are not too many differences between selective laser sintering (SLS) and laser melting (SLM). Unlike the SLM process, this 3D printing technique uses a heat source that heats the interior of the printer, including the material and build space. The laser then melts plastic powder layer by layer, turning the previously digital 3D model into a real 3D object.

Binder Jetting

Binder jetting uses a powdered starting material. This is sprayed with an adhesive – also known as a binder – which causes it to harden at this point.

Material Jetting

In material jetting, photopolymers serve as the starting material. The material is heated and fed into the print head. The print head works in a similar way to our inkjet printers at home or in the office. The heated starting material is atomized into fine droplets and applied in layers to the print bed or previous layer.

Electron beam melting (EBM)

Electron beam melting (EBM) requires conductive material in powder form as the starting material. This metal powder is bombarded with a high-energy beam of electrons and melted. Each previous layer melts together with the new one, thus creating the desired solid body.

Before buying a 3D printer, the advantages and disadvantages of the respective 3D printing process, but also of the individual printer should be considered. Clicking on the links in the procedures will explain them in more detail. Information on individual 3D printers and kits can be found on the following pages: