What is 3D Printing Technology? [2023]


If you've ever seen a 3D printer in action, you probably wondered what kind of technology is capable of making a physical object from a computer design. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of creating a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model by laying down successive layers of material. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on 3D printing technology, covering its history, types of 3D printing, materials used, advantages and disadvantages, industries and applications, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

A Brief History of 3D Printing

3D printing technology has come a long way since its inception in 1983, with the first-ever 3D printer invented by Chuck Hull, also known as the father of 3D printing. The first 3D printer used a process called Stereolithography (SLA), which involved using a laser to cure a liquid resin, layer by layer, to create a solid object. Since then, a variety of new 3D printing technologies have emerged, each with its unique benefits and limitations.

Types of 3D Printing Technology

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

One of the most common 3D printing technologies, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) works by heating and extruding a thin, continuous filament of thermoplastic material through a nozzle. This material cools and solidifies quickly, forming a three-dimensional object from the bottom-up. FDM 3D printers are versatile and can use a wide variety of materials, including PLA, PETG, ABS, Nylon, and TPU.

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers use a UV laser beam to cure a vat of liquid photopolymer resin, layer by layer, to create a solid object. This curing process hardens the resin, forming the layers of the final object. SLA printing is capable of producing very high-quality, detailed prints, but the resin is expensive, and print speeds are generally slower than with FDM.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing is commonly used in industrial applications. SLS printers use a laser to heat and fuse powdered nylon, metal, or other materials together to create a solid part. SLS is known for producing very durable and heat-resistant parts, but printing with this technology takes longer than FDM or SLA.

Digital Light Processing (DLP)

Digital Light Processing (DLP) 3D printing is similar to SLA, but instead of using a laser, it uses a projector to expose a layer of photopolymer resin and cure it. DLP 3D printing can produce high-quality prints at a faster speed than SLA, but the overall print volume is smaller, and the set-up process can be more challenging.

Material Jetting

Material Jetting 3D printing works like inkjet printing, but instead of printing ink, it prints tiny droplets of liquid photopolymer. These droplets are then cured by UV light, layer by layer, to create a solid object. Material Jetting can produce very high-resolution prints, and it is often used for creating small, intricate parts.

Binder Jetting

Binder Jetting 3D printing technology uses a powder bed, similar to SLS. Instead of using a laser to fuse the powder, it uses a liquid binder to fuse the material together. Binder Jetting is widely used in the manufacturing industry due to its ability to create complex shapes, but the finished product is generally not as strong as those made using SLS.

Direct Energy Deposition (DED)

Direct Energy Deposition (DED) 3D printing technology works by melting metal or other materials, using a laser, and depositing this melted material onto a surface. DED printing can create large parts quickly, but the finished product often requires significant post-processing.

Materials Used in 3D Printing

3D printing technology is capable of producing objects using a wide variety of materials. The type of material used depends on the 3D printing technology in question, the desired properties of the finished product, and the intended application.


PLA, or Polylactic Acid, is a popular material used in FDM 3D printers. It is a biodegradable thermoplastic made from renewable resources, such as cornstarch and sugarcane. PLA is easy to print with and produces objects with a smooth finish.


ABS, or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, is a common thermoplastic used in FDM printers. ABS is tough, heat-resistant, and durable, but it requires a heated print bed to prevent warping during the printing process.


PETG, or Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol, is a popular thermoplastic used in FDM 3D printers. PETG is strong, lightweight, and flexible, making it an ideal choice for printing functional parts. PETG is also resistant to chemicals and can withstand UV exposure.


Nylon is a popular material for use in SLS 3D printers. It is a high-strength thermoplastic that is used in the manufacturing of gears, bearings, and other parts that require durability and high temperature resistance.


3D printing technology can also be used to print metal parts. Metal 3D printing uses SLS and DED printing technologies to create finished parts made of metal alloys, such as steel, titanium, and aluminum. Metal 3D printing is often used in aerospace, medical, and automotive industries.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 3D Printing Technology


  • Customization: 3D printing allows for the creation of unique, customized objects that would be difficult or impossible to create using traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Time Savings: 3D printing cuts down on the time required to produce prototypes, part runs, and custom parts.
  • Reduced Waste: 3D printing is additive, which means there is little waste generated when creating parts.
  • Cost Savings: 3D printing can often be more cost-effective than traditional manufacturing methods for low-volume production runs.
  • Design Flexibility: 3D printing technology enables designers to create complex, organic shapes with ease.


  • Speed: 3D printing can be slow, especially when printing high-resolution, detailed objects.
  • Materials Limitations: Some types of printing technology are limited in the range of materials they can use.
  • Print Size Restrictions: Depending on the type of printer used, there may be size limitations on the objects that can be printed.
  • Post-Processing: Finished prints often require post-processing, such as sanding or polishing, to achieve a smooth surface.

Industries and Applications

3D printing technology has been utilized in a variety of industries and applications, including:


3D printing has revolutionized the medical field, allowing for the creation of patient-specific implants, prosthetics, and surgical models. 3D printing has also been used in the production of hearing aids and dental implants.


The aerospace industry has long relied on 3D printing technology for the production of lightweight, complex parts used in aircraft.


Automakers have used 3D printing technology to produce custom car parts and prototypes, as well as to create jigs and fixtures used in the assembly process.


3D printing technology has been used in the fashion industry to create intricate, unique designs that would not be possible using traditional manufacturing methods.

Art and Design

Artists and designers have utilized 3D printing technology to create sculptures, jewelry, and other unique objects.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the examples of 3D printing?

Examples of 3D printing include the creation of prototypes, custom parts, functional end-use parts, and artistic sculpture.

What is the most common 3D printing technology?

The most common 3D printing technology is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). FDM is commonly used due to its versatility, cost-effectiveness, and ease of use.

What materials can be used in 3D printing?

Many materials can be used in 3D printing, including PLA, ABS, Nylon, PETG, and various metals.

How long does 3D printing take?

The time required to print an object depends on the size and complexity of the design, as well as the type of printing technology used. A simple object can be printed in minutes, while more complex designs can take hours or even days.

Quick Tips and Facts

  • 3D printing technology has been around since 1983 when Chuck Hull invented the first-ever 3D printer.
  • 3D printing technology has revolutionized the manufacturing industry and is used in a variety of applications, from healthcare to fashion.
  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is the most common 3D printing technology due to its versatility, cost-effectiveness, and ease of use.


3D printing technology has come a long way since its inception in the 1980s. Today, it is used in a wide variety of industries and applications, from healthcare to fashion. This article has provided a comprehensive guide to 3D printing technology, covering its history, types of 3D printing, materials used, advantages and disadvantages, industries and applications, and more. We hope that this guide has helped you gain a better understanding of 3D printing technology and its capabilities. If you're interested in getting started with 3D printing, we recommend doing further research and experimentation to familiarize yourself with the many different types and applications available.

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