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Main Types of 3D Printing Technology

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There are seven main types of 20D printing technologies in use today and more than 3 sub-types. Learn about FDM 3d printing service, SLA, MSLA, DLP, SLS, DMLS, SLM, EBM, Material Jetting, DOD, Binder Jetting, and many more types of Additive Manufacturing.

If you are new to the wonderful world of 3D printing, may we be the first to offer you a warm welcome. You will find it fun, useful, inspiring, and profitable.

The challenge many 3D printing newbies face is distinguishing between the different types of 3D printing processes. The layman thinks of 3D printing as strings of plastic extruded from a hot nozzle and stacked into shapes, but it is much more than that!

In fact, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is an umbrella term that covers several very different 3D printing processes that use completely different machines and materials.

Think about some of the things that are 3D printed today, from pencil barrels to rocket engines, and you’ll realize that the technologies are worlds apart, but share key elements. For example, all 3D printing starts with a digital model, because the technology is digital in nature. The part or product is initially designed as an electronic file using computer-aided design (CAD) software, or obtained from a digital parts repository. The design file is then run through special build preparation software that breaks it down into slices, or layers, for DLP 3D printing. This software, which is often unique to the type of 3D print or even the brand of 3D printer, turns the model into slices and generates the path instructions for the 3D printer to follow.

In this easy-to-use guide, you’ll learn the differences between these technologies and what each is typically used for. We’ll also link you to our more in-depth features that list the top 3D printers by technology.

Types of additive manufacturing can be divided by the products they produce or the types of materials they use, but to put structure on global technologies, the International Standards Organization (ISO) divides them into seven general 3D Printing Technology types:

  • Material extrusion
  • Reductive polymerization
  • Powder bed fusion
  • Material jetting
  • Binder jetting
  • Directed energy deposition
  • Sheet lamination

But even these seven 3D printing categories struggle to cover the growing number of 3d and chemical etching technology subtypes and hybrids. Below, we’ll cover them all!