Once in production, a 3D model will be printed layer by layer using one of four potential 3D printing processes and corresponding materials:
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) - SLS is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass powders into a mass that has a desired 3-dimensional shape.
- Stereolithography (SLA) - Stereolithography is an additive manufacturing process using a vat of liquid UV-curable photopolymer resin and a UV laser to build parts a layer at a time. On each layer, the laser beam traces a part cross-section pattern on the surface of the liquid resin.
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) - FDM works on an additive principle by laying down material in layers. A plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to an extrusion nozzle which can turn on and off the flow.
- Laminate Object Manufacturing (LOM) - LOM is a rapid prototyping system that layers adhesive-coated paper, plastic, or metal laminates are successively glued together and cut to shape with a knife or laser cutter.
These are four of the common 3D printing methodologies and since the introduction of metal, 3D printing has moved past prototyping and art and has become a viable manufacturing technology.
3D printing processes and materials are the link that allows virtual to become physical in the 3D print and manufacturing supply chain.