Types of 3D Printing: A Comprehensive Guide [2023]

Unsupervised Learning: Depiction of patterns and connections between objects representing of one method in which AI systems learns from their own experiences. Artist: Vincent Schwenk

Are you new to 3D printing and wondering about the various types of 3D printing technologies out there? Or perhaps you're an experienced user looking to expand your knowledge on the latest advancements in the field? Whatever your level of expertise, our team at 3D Printed™ has got you covered with our comprehensive guide to the different types of 3D printing. So sit back, relax, and let's dive in!

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is the most common type of 3D printing and is widely available and affordable. FDM works by heating a thermoplastic filament to melting point before extruding it layer by layer onto a build platform to create a 3D object. This is a great beginner technology for any individual who is interested in 3D printing.

Key features and benefits:

  • Affordable and widely available
  • Easy to use and beginner-friendly
  • Wide range of filaments available, including eco-friendly options
  • Suitable for making functional prototypes, end-use parts and custom objects
  • Can produce large-sized prints


  • Affordable compared to other printing technologies
  • Easy to use and beginner-friendly, with user-friendly software options available
  • Able to print functional and large-sized objects


  • Generally has lower resolution and accuracy compared to other printing technologies
  • Potential for warping of printed objects
  • Support material can be difficult to remove: it is time-consuming and requires additional materials and tools

Popular brands utilizing FDM technology include Creality and Ultimaker.


Artificial General Intelligence: Shapes representing a network of AI agents and within them two shaller shapes indicating data. Artist: Wes Cockx.

Stereolithography (SLA) is a popular type of 3D printing that uses a laser to cure light-sensitive resin one layer at a time. This method produces highly accurate and precise prints with a smooth surface finish.

Key features and benefits:

  • Produces high-resolution prints with a smooth surface finish
  • Can produce complex geometries with intricate details and features
  • Offers a wide range of materials, including flexible, transparent, and castable resins
  • Suitable for creating concept models, visual aids, and end-use parts


  • High accuracy and resolution, producing prints with a smooth surface finish
  • Suitable for making functional prototypes, small parts and objects with complex geometries
  • Offers a wide range of materials, including flexible, transparent and castable resins


  • More expensive than FDM and DLP 3D printing technologies
  • Can produce brittle and weak prints when exposed to long-term UV light
  • Prints can be damaged by moisture and heat

Popular brands utilizing SLA technology include Formlabs and Anycubic.

Digital Light Processing (DLP)

Another popular resin-based 3D printing method is Digital Light Processing (DLP). It works similarly to SLA, but instead of a laser, it uses a digital projector to cure the resin, which speeds up the printing process.

Key features and benefits:

  • Fast printing speed and high accuracy
  • Higher resolution than FDM technology and affordable compared to SLA printing
  • Large print volume


  • Fast printing speed, large print volume, and affordable compared to SLA printing
  • Offers a high resolution, which is suitable for creating intricate details and features


  • Prints can be brittle and have a lower structural integrity than ABS or PLA due to the quick printing speed
  • The material selection is generally limited

Popular brands utilizing DLP technology include ANYCUBIC and Wanhao.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a powder-based 3D printing technology that uses a high-powered laser to selectively fuse nylon or polyamide powder into a solid object. Unlike FDM or SLA printing, there is no need for support structures since the powder acts as the support. This method produces models with excellent structural integrity and accuracy.

Key features and benefits:

  • Produces functional models with good mechanical accuracy and strength
  • No support structures required
  • Large build volume
  • Great for complex geometries


  • Has excellent structural integrity and accuracy
  • Able to create designated structures without easy support material
  • Offers great detail and accuracy in producing high-quality prints.


  • Expensive compared to other 3D printing technologies
  • Prolong production times making it inefficient when printing on a tight schedule
  • Risk of part warpage

Popular brands utilizing SLS technology include Sinterit and Formlabs.

Binder Jetting

Binder Jetting works with a layer of metal, sand or ceramic powder that is laid down on a build platform and then sprayed with a binder to create a solid layer. Each layer is then hardened by heating or UV exposure before the next layer is applied. Binder Jetting is mainly used for industrial applications such as casting molds, metal objects, and 3D printing of spare parts.

Key features and benefits:

  • Speed
  • Precise control over the properties of the material
  • Cost-effective


  • Offers a high-accuracy and speed structure
  • Suitable for large-scale production
  • Efficient in producing finished pieces


  • Limited material selection
  • Cooling complications can increase the lead time
  • Limited detailing for designs

Popular brands using Binder Jetting technology include HP and Desktop Metal.

Material Jetting

Material Jetting is an inkjet printing technology that works by depositing layers of material onto a build platform using inkjet printheads. Depending on the technology being used, these layers can be as thin as 16 microns.

Key features and benefits:

  • High-resolution printing
  • Capable of producing multi-material prints
  • Large range of material options


  • Suitable for printing complex designed models
  • High-accuracy and quality of production
  • Produces models in full color with exceptional detail


  • Limited material options which limits variety and flexibility
  • Long lead times, sometimes several hours to complete

Popular brands utilizing Material Jetting technology include Objet and Stratasys.

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) involves a layer of paper, plastic or metal being cut to shape by a laser or blade and then glued together to create the final object.

Key features and benefits:

  • Uses plain paper which makes the materials widely available at low cost
  • High-speed printing


  • Produces good quality objects, has a good structural integrity with fast production times
  • Processes large prints with relative ease


  • Limited selection of materials
  • Can produce rough surface finish with weak structural integrity in large-sized prints

Brands utilizing LOM technology include Mcor and Solido.

Powder Bed Fusion

Powder Bed Fusion is a type of 3D printing technology that makes use of a bed of granulated powder that is selectively fused by a laser or electron beam to create the object. The unfused powder acts as the support and can be reused.

Key features and benefits:

  • High speed and accuracy
  • Reduced material waste
  • Suitable for demanding applications


  • Offers a high level of accuracy while producing high-quality prints
  • Can produce high-strength parts that can withstand high temperatures and pressures


  • Expensive in equipment and maintenance costs
  • Requires special training and safety precautions

Popular brands utilizing PBF technology include EOS and Renishaw.

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is a type of 3D printing technology that is similar to FDM but uses the term FFF to differentiate it. FFF is a more precise naming for describing this method of 3D printing.

Key features and benefits:

  • Affordable compared to other printing technologies
  • Easy to use
  • Wide variety of formats and types of filaments


  • Affordable cost for both the equipment and materials
  • Suitable for producing large prints and functional prototypes


  • The quality of printing is lower than SLA and SLS printing
  • There can be time-consuming clean up after print

Popular brands using FFF technology include Makerbot and Flashforge.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the 9 types of 3D printing?

There are nine types of 3D printing. They include; Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), Digital Light Processing (DLP), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Binder Jetting, Material Jetting, Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM), Powder Bed Fusion (PBF), and Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

What are the four types of 3D printing and design?

The four types of 3D printing and design are FDM, SLA, SLS, and DLP printing.

What are the acronyms for the 4 major types of 3D printing?

The acronyms for the four major types of 3D printing are FDM, SLA, SLS, and DLP printing.

Quick Tips and Facts

  • 3D printing has a high startup cost but is relatively cheap once you own the equipment.
  • The current largest 3D printed object is a house and was printed in 2019.
  • 3D printing is expected to grow to a $40.8 billion market by 2024.
  • Some filmmakers use 3D printing to make miniatures for movies and TV shows.
  • The International Space Station has its own 3D printer.

In conclusion, there are various types of 3D printing technologies available depending on your preference and needs. FDM, SLA, and DLP printing are excellent for beginners and hobbyists, while SLS, Binder Jetting, Powder Bed Fusion, and Material Jetting are more suitable for professional applications. Laminated Object Manufacturing is inexpensive but can produce rough surfaces while having weak structural integrity in large-sized prints. At the same time, Fused Filament Fabrication is affordable and accessible to the average user. So go ahead and choose the technology that best suits your needs and get printing!

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