Additive manufacturing, or high-volume 3D printing, utilizes multiple production lines to produce a wide range of products. By opting for a hybrid or fully additive manufacturing approach, companies can transform their manufacturing and business models and address the challenges of supply chain disruptions. Below, we discuss the types of additive manufacturing, examining the differences between additive manufacturing methods and how LuxCreo’s advanced 3D printing solutions provide new capabilities and flexible on-demand manufacturing options.
Types of Additive Manufacturing
Unlike traditional manufacturing processes, additive manufacturing does not require tooling to support volume manufacturing. The strength and durability of advanced 3D printing materials can compete with their traditional counterparts. Companies can directly print finished products with great surface finish and textures with some types of additive manufacturing technology and reduced post-processing steps. As advanced 3D printing solutions offer the flexibility to fabricate complex parts with accuracy, multiple parts of a product can be consolidated into a single piece. This eliminates or reduces assembly labor to produce the final product, enables new automated smart factory production methods, and makes local manufacturing economically possible and sustainable.
The following include the major types of additive manufacturing processes:
Vat Photopolymerization (SLA and DLP)
The vat photopolymerization method utilizes a laser or other light source to selectively cure a photopolymer resin in a vat. The most common forms of vat polymerization are stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP). Both methods require resin with a photoinitiator that activates with exposure to a specific frequency light to harden with cross-linking. The post-processing steps involve the removal of the excess uncured resin in alcohol and exposing the cleaned part to heat or UV light. This last step completes the material’s polymerization, achieving the specified material properties and geometry to the final product.
DLP is ideal for addressing high-throughput and resolution requirements for products such as dental implants and footwear. SLA is an excellent choice for printing several small, intricate parts at once or a single large part with intricate surface details and is used in aerospace and automotive industries for manufacturing complex parts.
LuxCreo’s next-generation LEAP platform combines application tuned software, hardware, and materials to improve previous DLP and SLA technology. LuxCreo’s LEAP platform simplifies the additive manufacturing process, achieving tooling level surface finish, significant labor reduction, and sustainable and scalable manufacturing.
Material Extrusion (FDM or FFF)
This method utilizes a thermoplastic filament to trace a part’s structure on a horizontal platform. The fused deposition modeling (FDM), also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF) is the 3D printing technology used for this additive manufacturing process. FDM supports small to large printing volumes. Additionally, larger parts with complex structures can be built up from various filament materials to produce multiple material plastic parts. The method is relatively slow due to the line-by-line tracing process and requires post-processing like buffing and polishing to deliver smooth surfaces and final products.
The additive manufacturing process uses a print head to jet hundreds of tiny droplets of photopolymer and cures them through UV light. Once a layer is formed, the build platform lowers down one layer thickness to repeat the process. The line-wise deposition of the photopolymer facilitates the fabrication of multiple objects in a single line without impacting the build speed. The technology enables the manufacturing of products from multi-material printing and full-color.
Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)
The 3D printing process utilizes a laser or electron beam to fuse powder particles inside a build area to create a layer and repeat the process to fabricate the final product. Selective laser sintering (SLS) is the most common 3D printing technology used for powder bed fusion in polymer additive manufacturing. A laser beam selectively sinters a bin of polymer powder to build a layer of material onto a build platform. The steps are repeated layer-by-layer to fabricate a finished part. SLS enables large batch production with no need for support structures. However, the process requires post-processing that can weaken the final part. Powder bed fusion can also be used to create metal parts.
Though similar to SLS with a requirement for an initial layer of powder on the build platform, this 3D printing technology differs in utilizing a print head over the powder surface to deposit binder droplets that bind the powder particles together. A liquid binding agent or jetting glue selectively binds regions of a powder bed. Once a layer prints, the powder bed is lowered, and a new layer of powder spreads over the recently printed layer. After printing has been completed, the remaining powder is removed, and the green printed parts must be debinded, sintered, then machined to achieve surface and dimensional accuracy.
Directed Energy Deposition (DED)
Directed energy deposition (DED) involves melting 3D printing material by an electron beam or laser and depositing it around a fixed object. A range of materials can be used for the technology, including metal powder, wires, ceramic, and polymers. Due to the ability to repair and control grain structure, DED can achieve a high degree of accuracy and repair and fabricate parts.
Sheet lamination binds layers of paper or metal using adhesive or ultrasonic welding. Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) and Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM) are the two variations of this technology.
Manufacturers can best realize the benefits of additive manufacturing processes by teaming up with an experienced 3D printing partner to determine the best solution for scaling production.
Why LuxCreo’s LEAP platform is Better Suited for Additive Manufacturing Volume Production
LuxCreo’s patented LEAP (Light Enabled Additive Production) platform improves previous DLP and SLA technology by developing specific software, hardware, and materials to bring unique capabilities to additive manufacturing, simplifying additive production processes and increasing production throughput and yield.
The following includes key features that distinguish LuxCreo’s LEAP (Light Enabled Additive Production) platform from DLP, SLA, SLS, and other 3D printing technologies:
Fast and Accurate Printing for Entire Build Area
Both DLP and SLA have the highest deposition accuracy among 3D printing processes. SLA achieves high accuracy for both small and large build areas. However, it sacrifices speed as more parts are added to the batch. Unlike SLA, which takes minutes for its laser to trace one layer, DLP cures the entire layer as fast as one second, no matter how many parts are printed together in a batch. This fast DLP printing speed facilitates the manufacturing of several parts in a batch and fast turnaround production for same day and same visit production. However, DLP systems are not all alike, with many sacrificing batch accuracy to achieve increased production speeds.
LuxCreo 3D printers, built on the LEAP platform, deliver a unique volume manufacturing solution with consistent, high accuracy over the entire production batch leading production speeds. LuxCreo achieves this leading performance by tuning its software, hardware, and resins to ensure batch-to-batch accuracy at high printing speeds.
LuxCreo LEAP platform is further optimized for high-volume production by further tuning its software, resins, and hardware to maximize production throughput, minimize material use, and minimize manufacturing footprint.
High-Resolution Printing Across Build Volume
High resolution is misunderstood by many inexperienced and experienced professionals. Native XY resolution is only one piece of the accuracy puzzle with many other factors affecting part accuracy: Z-direction accuracy, light collimation, separation layer adhesion, diffraction, and dispersion, material shrinkage and green properties, part design and print orientation, and support structure design and optimization to name a few all affect a 3D printer’s ability to produce accurate parts.
LuxCreo’s LEAP platform achieves leading part resolution and surface finish versus other 3D printing technologies, including DLP, SLA, SLS, and FDM technologies. LuxCreo LEAP platform optimizes 3D printer, software, and material design to overcome the limitations of DLP part and batch accuracy while achieving and exceeding SLA accuracy and surface finish. XY and Z resolution across the entire build volume is improved with LuxCreo’s LEAP platform achieving sub 50 micron XY feature size and sub 10 micron Z accuracy with layer less printing at 100-micron layer thickness.
LEAP Enabled Digital Polishing Directly Prints Parts Transparent
A higher resolution is not enough to print clear and transparent parts. Transparent printing requires control over software, hardware, and resin to achieve the surface smoothness required to deliver truly transparent parts. DLP and SLA 3D printing solutions claim “clear printing,” but only LuxCreo’s LEAP platform enables Digital Polishing clear and transparent parts directly printed without any post-processing polishing steps. Buyers of vat polymerization solutions (DLP, LCD, SLA) need to understand the significant labor hours required to repeatedly sand and polish a part for transparency.
LuxCreo’s LEAP platform intelligently tunes 3D printing hardware, software, and materials to print clear and transparent parts directly. From transparent dental clear aligners, retainers, and splints to transparent bottles, microfluidics devices and optics can be Digitally Polished inside and out with no post-processing polishing required to achieve transparency.
Surface Finish and Color Printing
Additive manufacturing through SLS produces a rough part with limited color options and requires multiple extensive post-processing steps, including color dying and polishing to achieve high-quality, vibrant colors and smoother surfaces. These post-processing steps cause small surface cracks and reduce the material and part performance lower than the expected bulk material properties listed in technical datasheets. DLP-based 3D printing systems offer many 3D printed color options and smoother surfaces that do not require additional smoothing post-processing steps. The results are higher-performing, more durable products with a smoother surface finish.
LuxCreo’s LEAP platform delivers on the promise of 3D printing durable, production products ready for delivery. Tough or elastic and opaque or transparent, LuxCreo offers a wide selection of directly printed colors for a range of dental, medical, consumer, and industrial applications.
To achieve clarity and a smooth surface finish, SLS and SLA require significant post-processing steps. Advanced DLP solutions require less post-processing as layer lines, and surface roughness is reduced. The wash and cure steps ensure high dimensional accuracy and high-performance mechanical properties for the final production part. Smooth surfaces and limited support structures minimize support removal steps and achieve the smooth finish of the final part.
LuxCreo’s 3D printing solutions, including hardware, software, and materials, streamline additive manufacturing through the DLP technology and manufacture production products that require fast printing, high-performance, precision, and high-quality finishes.
LuxCreo’s 3D Printing Software Enable Additive Manufacturing
Software development is critical to offering unique value in additive manufacturing. Companies developing software can improve the design and production processes, be more responsive to their customer needs, and improve the production quality and yield.
Additionally, deep integration of software, hardware, and resin development can deliver new capabilities beyond the basic value provided by printer companies that use generic software and 3rd party resins.
LuxCreo’s LEAP technology platform is built on a deep integration of software, hardware, and resin innovations. New and unique capabilities like digital polishing for transparent printing and the high-performance, elastic products for running shoes and medical pillows are achieved on the LEAP platform.
Additionally, LuxCreo software apps build on the LEAP platform are transforming industries and business models while simplifying manufacturing and making manufacturing more sustainable. LuxCreo apps like LuxAlign, LuxCare, and LuxStudio leverage the coupling of LuxCreo’s materials, 3D printer hardware, and Smart Factory production service to deliver digital workflow from concept or scan to production, supporting both volume production and mass customization.
LuxAlign, the leading direct print clear aligner creation software, can create a range of dental appliances from scan/dental model in less than four minutes. By configuring parameters such as aligner thickness, gap, support spacing, and material compensation, the software simplifies the 3D printing workflow. A full batch of clear aligners, retainers, and nightguards can be batch printed in the industrial Lux 3+ dental printers in less than 30 minutes.
Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) and product light-weighting many times involves developing a metamaterial structure such as a lattice structure or a fractal mesh in the product design. LuxStudio quickly designs lightweight structures with variable stiffness to enhance the performance of a 3D-printed polymer product. Material is selected, and lattice structures are tuned to required mechanical performance for high-performance and custom products with elastic, tough, and transparent characteristics.
The mobile application makes manufacturing custom insoles a breeze. The LuxCare app scans your foot and creates a custom pair of insoles in minutes. Once complete, the user clicks to order, and the custom insole is produced at LuxCreo’s Smart Factory. LuxCreo with LuxCare digitalizes insole manufacturing from scan, design, print, and delivery, simplifying custom insole mass-customization production.
The pre-processing software for batching parts and building 3D models makes fast, digitized production workflow possible. Advanced features such as rotate tools, support generation, batch nesting, marking tools, and slice tools enable accurate and fast printing of an STL file.
LuxLink is LuxCreo’s 3D printer fleet management software. With LuxLink, Smart factory management is centralized and simplified, allowing companies to maximize production efficiency, 3D printer utilization, and load balance when production priorities change.
LuxCreo’s innovative 3D printing solutions have taken 3D printing technologies to the next level in terms of elastic and transparent printing, speed, surface finish, and color. The advanced 3D printers, software, and resins reduce the post-processing steps, improve the cost-efficiency of additive manufacturing, and make additive manufacturing more economical, accessible, and sustainable.
To learn more about types of additive manufacturing and how LuxCreo’s 3D printers, software, and material simplify and optimize the production workflow, visit our contact page or call 1 (650) 336-0888