Starting with the basics
3D printing technology produces physical, three-dimensional items from digital files after the 3D modeling process. Charles W. Hull developed the procedure and created the first 3D-printed component in the 1980s, which is when the practice initially became popular. Since then, 3D printing has experienced exponential growth and offers countless opportunities. Through the use of layers and computer-aided design, 3D printing produces three-dimensional objects. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of building up layers of different materials, such as plastics, composites, or biomaterials, to produce items that vary in size, shape, rigidity, and color.
FDM Printer Vs. Resin Printer
In the field of material extrusion, fused filament fabrication (FFF) is also known as fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printing, which is an additive manufacturing (AM) technology. FDM selectively deposits melted material along a predetermined path to create parts layer by layer using thermoplastic polymers in the form of filaments. Fused deposition modeling is the most well-liked approach to additive manufacturing. In the automotive industry, it has been employed for everything from model testing to the creation of fully functional parts. Because most of their applications require robust and durable materials, FDM is often the most popular 3D printing technology for prototypes, jigs & fixtures, drill guides, and low-volume production needs.
Stereolithography (SLA) or resin printing technology is used to build prototypes, models, patterns, and production parts layer by layer. To build polymers and a 3D solid, it uses photochemical processes in which the light causes oligomers and monomers to cross-link. The same projector or laser-based light source is used by resin 3D printers to transform liquid resin into hard plastic. The build platform, light source, and resin tank are arranged differently, which is the main physical difference. Resins, which are thermoset materials with light reactivity, are used in these machines. Small molecular chains combine oligomers and monomers to form solidified flexible or stiff geometries when SLA resins are exposed to specific light wavelengths.
Differences between FDM and Resin printers
These two varieties of 3D printers operate very differently and utilize various materials: In contrast to SLA, DLP, etc., which use a resin cured with ultraviolet light, FDM employs filament that melts and clings to the preceding layer, gradually producing the model. The following factors can be examined to differentiate further.
- Print quality: The quality and accuracy of the pieces’ construction are what immediately stand out when seeing prints made using resin printers. In light of the technologies previously discussed, it can be deduced that FDM printers won’t be able to make prints with as much detail, which is notably evident in miniatures because their layer thicknesses are greater than those of resin printers. The finished resin print has a more uniform finish and doesn’t have the obvious seam lines that FDM printing frequently has. One of the most notable distinctions between the two technologies is the print quality; resin printers generate prints with a considerably greater resolution.
- Build volume: Due to the resin printer’s reduced dimensions and thus smaller print volume, the volume of the component to be produced is also a restriction. It should be made clear that the market in question, i.e., those printers that are affordable to the majority, is the consumer market and not the market for professional printers. Compared to SLA or resin printers, FDM 3D printers have greater build volumes, allowing them to handle some short-run additive manufacturing tasks in addition to developing full-size, usable parts and models.
- Printing speed: When printing many models, resin printers will be faster than FDM printers since the layer that needs to be hardened is printed all at once with resin printers. Similar to FDM printers, one could change the slicer settings to increase the layer height and other factors to speed up printing if needed. This will cause the print to finish sooner. Just keep in mind that printing more quickly results in lower print quality.
- Maintenance: In contrast to FDM printers, which feature components that degrade over time, resin printers are more compact and require fewer mechanical adjustments. The nozzle might clog and need to be cleaned; the belts might need to be changed or replaced; a piece of filament could get stuck in one of the cooling fans, etc. DLP or LED-LCD resin printers may have LCD screen damage, and the FEP film, a component of the resin tank, may occasionally need to be changed. Overall, resin printers cost more to maintain because, despite needing replacement less frequently than FDM printer parts, their replacement parts are far more expensive.
- Post-processing: In the case of FDM, the part is often finished and prepared for use when the print is completed. It is crucial to remember, however, that occasionally it is required to remove some support material or sand it before calling it “done.” However, resin printers aren’t straightforward: the unprocessed resin needs to be removed in an isopropyl alcohol bath, and the print needs to be cured either in a UV light chamber or outside the sun. Finally, it is frequently necessary to remove supports as well.
- Ease of use and material safety: Since there is no need to alter the printer’s various settings, such as the bed leveling or belt tension, resin printers are simpler to use. However, because the resin is liquid and poisonous, users must exercise extreme caution and wear the appropriate safety gear whenever they handle resin.
Using a solid plastic filament by FDM printers, on the other hand, eliminates any risk. However, users may need to level the bed every five or ten prints with FDM printers, especially inexpensive ones. Thermoplastic polymers and resins can create gases, some of which might be poisonous. An example of this is ABS, which necessitates working in ventilated environments. Resin printers are simpler to operate because they don’t require any adjustments. Additionally, as the resin is liquid and relatively toxic, certain precautions must be taken when using resin printers. For example, you must wear protective eyewear and gloves while working to prevent skin reactions.
- Costs involved: Because of the increase in supply, the technology is being adopted more broadly, which lowers its price. Although resin printers for home use may be purchased for between $250 and $300, the cost of acquisition is undoubtedly lower, with FDM leading the way in this area. Over time, however, the price will only decrease. Filament costs roughly $20 for a spool of one kilogram. On the one hand, resin printers require isopropyl alcohol in addition to photopolymer for the final curing and finishing touches. As mentioned earlier, the resin is significantly more expensive than filament, costing about five times as much. Add isopropyl alcohol to the equation, and the cost of running the printer goes up even further. Last but not least, the maintenance cost is higher for resin printers since the replacement parts—like the FEP sheet, which typically needs to be changed every 20 to 30 prints or when it begins to show symptoms of wear—are far more expensive than those for an FDM printer. On the contrary, FDM printers don’t need preventive maintenance, but because they have many mechanical parts and are frequently damaged, it takes a lot of time.
The final verdict: which technology should you choose?
Always choose the right tool for the work in the initial stage. FDM and SLA have advantages and can be used for separate tasks or in conjunction with constructions that need several parts. When contrasting FDM and SLA 3D printers, SLA is the superior choice if you want to produce exquisite feature design prototypes. In contrast, FDM will offer greater versatility for parts throughout the production process, including designing, manufacturing, and maintenance. It’s evident that these printers have slowly but surely made their way onto the market and have also become cheaper. The future of resin printing looks fairly bright without going into a complete analysis of the progress of light-curing technology in a vat.
Currently, printers like Form 3L address some of the issues in the professional market. But since they are more expensive printers made for larger businesses, they are not represented in the cheaper versions or those intended for home use. Although resin printers have a bright future, FDM printers are still preferable for the majority of people interested in 3D printing since they do not need to be operated with the same safety precautions as resin printers, which are poisonous and require extreme caution.
In conclusion, both FDM and SLA or resin printers have advantages and disadvantages of their own. They are incredibly versatile and useful in situations that they are designed for. However, from the standpoint of a small-scale user, SLA or resin printers are more expensive and more challenging to operate. FDM printers utilize technology to reduce costs and offer faster operation times, more efficiency, less noise, and even fewer occupational hazards. If you are someone looking for a chance to improve your skills in 3D designing, consider the interactive tutorials offered by SelfCAD.