Advancements in 3D printing, along with product complexity and different types of available processes have made it challenging to select the right 3D printer for high-volume manufacturing. Digital Light Processing (DLP) and LCD are two commonly implemented resin-based 3D printing technologies. The following compares DLP vs. LCD 3D printers, their unique features, and the subtle differences.
DLP vs. LCD 3D Printer: A Comparison
Resin-based 3D printing technologies (also known as vat-polymerization) such as stereolithography or SLA, DLP, and LCD involve curing a photosensitive resin using a light source that helps solidify the resin and create the printed product layer-by-layer. The post-processing steps include cleaning the excess uncured resin and exposure to UV light for final curing. However, the major difference lies in using different light sources for curing the resin.
Next Generation DLP and LCD Printers: Smart Factory DLP and LCD 3D Printers and Integrated Smart Factory Production Services
Next-generation DLP and LCD 3D printing platforms built on LuxCreo’s LEAP™platform are delivering new capabilities that simplify manufacturing and enable high-volume production. LuxCreo’s LEAP™platform outperforms current DLP, LCD, and SLA printers by developing and tuning software, hardware, and resin to deliver new capabilities: high throughput, maximum batch size, and DigitalPolishing™.
DigitalPolishing™ eliminates 90% of the post-processing polishing labor allowing manufacturers to print clear, transparent parts with no polishing required, eliminating the Achilles heel of SLA, DLP, and LCD vat-polymerization systems.
Traditional Digital Light Processing (DLP) Printer
How it works: In DLP 3D printers, a digital projector screen is used to flash an impression of a layer across the platform. The light is reflected on a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) — a semiconductor chip consisting of microscopic-sized mirrors/ lenses that direct the light towards the bottom of the tank containing the resin. The light defines the coordinate of the voxel (three-dimensional pixel) that is cured within the given layer.
Print Quality: As lenses are used to modify the size of the image, coming from a smaller DMD source to fit a wider print area, there are chances of producing distorted voxels at the edges of the build area. Cheaper DLP printers have issues with uniformity, such as the “flashlight effect,” resulting in higher light intensity in the middle but lesser on the sides. Such issues lead to layers not adhering and poor surface finishes due to under-curing or over-curing.
Applications: With DLP printers, the number of pixels does not change and remains the same regardless of the size of the image. Therefore the precision of printing is impacted depending on the size of the model. The narrower the size of the model, the higher the precision. That is why DLP 3D printers work best for accurate and precise printing of small-sized models with details as fine as .05 mm and are widely used for 3D printing of dental implants, jewelry, footwear, and others.
Speed: The higher intensity of light facilitates faster printing. By utilizing a wavelength of 405 nm with light intensity as high as 20-30 mW/cm2, DLP 3D printers can cure an entire layer at once and require less time to print more parts in a batch. Lower DLP wavelengths, including 385nm, are used to improve clear part accuracy and open up other traditional SLA resins for use on DLP. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to selecting 405nm or 385nm depending on if speed, precision, and/or longevity are the priority.
Pricing: DLP 3D printers traditionally are higher-priced printers vs. LCD printers. For this higher price, industrial Smart Factory DLP 3D printers are designed for volume manufacturing with consistent batch-to-batch and machine-to-machine production. Smart Factory DLP 3D printers provide higher speed, larger build volumes, longer life, and higher precision across large build areas versus LCD printers.
Traditional LCD Printers
How it works: Unlike a DLP printer which is used as a projector, an LCD printer does not use a projector and deploys an array of UV LEDs as the light source and an LCD to mask (block) UV light allowing only select areas to be cured in the layer. Inexpensive LCD printers utilize cheap light sources that have low uniformity and produce light that is not columnated (aligned with the print area). This results in pixel distortion. LCDs also have a much shorter life versus DLP light engines requiring owners to frequently replace LCD screens, increasing consumable cost versus DLP printers.
Print Quality: Higher quality LCD can produce high-quality prints; however, as LCDs become larger, they have limits on uniformity, and batch to batch, machine to machine variability becomes an issue. Less expensive LCD 3D printers have challenges controlling distortion caused by a lack of LED array uniformity and alignment. If these technical challenges are not addressed, the print quality can be and be worse than in DLP printers.
Applications: Compared to FDM 3D printers, LCD printers offer better printing quality for the same price and are therefore popular for chairside dental or desktop applications. The lower cost barrier makes these printers popular for adopting 3D printing across dental, jewelry, engineering, hobbyists, and other industries.
Speed: Compared to DLP 3D printers, LCD printers are slower and are low in intensity in the range of 3-5 mW/cm2. Conventional LCD 3D printers can not print with high viscosity.
Pricing: LCD printers are created as an affordable alternative to their advanced 3D printing counterparts. With an easily replaceable LCD panel, these printers are customized for small spaces and are desktop-sized for ease of use.
When deciding between DLP vs. LCD 3D printers, a popular perception is that the DLP printers are better than the LCD. However, on a budget, next-generation LCD 3D printers can be the right first step into resin 3D printing, depending on the application-specific applications.
Fast, Economic Volume Manufacturing with Smart Factory DLP and LCD 3D Printers
Next-generation DLP and LCD 3D printing platforms built on LuxCreo’s LEAP™platform are delivering new capabilities that simplify manufacturing and provide on-demand access to Smart Factory volume production. LuxCreo’s LEAP™platform outperforms current DLP, LCD, and SLA printers by developing and tuning software, hardware, and resin to deliver new capabilities: high throughput, maximum batch size, and DigitalPolishing™.
LuxCreo’s Smart Factory DLP and LCD 3D printer solve the above problems with traditional DLP and LCD 3D printers supporting repeatable high throughput production of high-performance and high-viscosity materials. LuxCreo’s Smart Factory DLP and LCD 3D printers open up a new category of 3D printers that deliver the fastest, most economical path to volume production.
Selecting the Right 3D Printer for Manufacturing Process
To improve the performance of DLP or LCD 3D printers, it is necessary to get control over design, software, printer, and resins. LuxCreo’s integrated Smart Factory 3D printing solutions facilitate clear, transparent, faster, and accurate printing with both DLP and LCD printers while also providing the fastest, most economical path to volume production. Our advanced range of Smart Factory DLP 3D printers enables in-house production and provides contract 3D printing services through cloud-connected smart factories.
Luxcreo’s integrated suite of high-performance 3D printing materials, 3D printers, and software help manufacturers simplify high-viscosity 3D printing with Smart Factory DLP and LCD 3D printers. Our intuitive software tuned to our materials and our DLP and LCD 3D printers ensure uniformity, consistency, and accuracy in high-throughput and high-yield manufacturing batch to batch and machine to machine to achieve the highest, most economical production throughput.