Since its inception during the late 1980s, additive technologies have transformed the way products are prototyped. Software and hardware have come along way since, and prototyping by way of additive technologies continue to be one of the fastest and most cost effective methods. Today, the term additive manufacturing (or AM) is more commonly being utilized further downstream in the production phases of product development. While prototyping with additive technologies is ever-changing, so is the means of production.
This technology can achieve smooth surfaces, thin walls, and complex geometries with accuracy as high as 0.1 mm—the one and only technology that supports a wide selection of materials with properties that range from rubber to rigid and transparent to opaque. It is commonly used for prototyping but out-the-box uses includes jigs and fixtures.
This technology is ideal for high-resolution finishes regarding medium- to large-sized parts. While there are less materials to choose from versus PolyJet, it is an extremely cost-effective solution for creating durable, aesthetically pleasing parts of considerable size on a tight deadline.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
This technology is an ideal fabrication method for all kinds of applications because of its wide range of engineering-grade thermoplastics—from concept models, functional prototypes, and end-use parts such as final goods and manufacturing aides (e.g. jigs and fixtures).
Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
This technology is quickly becoming a popular choice for 3D printing prototypes and production parts. Ideal uses for MJF are enclosures, electronics housings, complex ducts, lattice structures, and functional assemblies. The technology is capable of 3D printing parts with high detail, as well as suitable for applications that require durability (e.g. snap fits).
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
This technology is a commonly to create models, prototypes, and end-use parts in durable, engineering-grade thermoplastics. Especially great for larger quantities of parts. Consider SLS for applications that involve high-complexity and organic geometries, as well as parts requiring durability.