Pros and cons of major RP technologies

30 Apr, 2001 By: Mark Huxley,Steven Weisberg Cadalyst

Pros and cons of major RP technologies
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3DPMIT-licensed process that jets a binder onto starch- and cellulose-based powders.Currently the fastest technology in the industry. Recent 2—4X gains in material strength. Flexible parts are possible and may be built in different colors.Accuracy, surface finish, and material strength make the process best suited for concept models.
FDMFused deposition modeling uses a heated extrusion tip to melt materials in filament form.A variety of office-friendly materials are available, including ABS, wax, and elastomer. Some newer machines offer water-soluble supports.Generally, a slower process than SLA and SLS. Detectable layering requires finishing.
InkjetSimilar to conventional inkjet printing technology using a photopolymer. Addition of an elevator enables the third axis of printing.Can provide exceptional speed and accuracy with surface finishes that require only light finishing when you paint the part.Limited proprietary material selection. Relatively young adaptation of RP.
LENSLaser engineered net shaping uses a laser to melt a substrate. Metal powder is introduced into the void, melted, and then solidified.Can directly build metal parts, including stainless and tool steel, titanium, and super alloys (aluminum-titanium hybrids). Injection molds can incorporate efficient cooling channels that would be impossible to machine.Less accurate than others. Although the process negates the need to hog out large amounts of hard-to-cut material, finish machining is still usually necessary.
LOMIn laminated object modeling, sections of a part are cut from paper and automatically glued together.Quickly models parts with strength and properties similar to wood.Accuracy of unsealed parts can be susceptible to changes in humidity. Occasionally parts need intensive hand finishing to remove unnecessary material.
SLAStereolithography apparatus uses a laser to solidify a photopolymer.Provides an excellent combination of speed, accuracy, and surface finish.Limited material selection and properties. Raw material isn't particularly pleasant to people or environment. Limited to light functional testing because of material properties.
SLSSelective laser sintering uses a laser to sinter powder.Fast, accurate, and functional parts are not as brittle as most SLA models. Plastic and metal parts are available.Surface finish right out of machine is poor. Porosity makes it more difficult to paint than an SLA model.

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