The past few years have seen 3D printing skyrocket in popularity as an accessible and affordable means of additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping. These days, you can find 3D printers in garages, home offices, classrooms, and research labs. 3D printers can be used to create everything from concept models and functional prototypes to jigs, fixtures, games, gadgets, and teaching models. Believe it or not, 3D printers are now being used to print food in Michelin-star restaurants, and even to 3D print houses and boats.
With the popularity and huge variety of applications, learning to 3D print may be one of the most valuable skills a maker can cultivate.
Desktop FDM 3D Printing
Fused deposition modeling, or “FDM” 3D printing, is a popular method of additive manufacturing where layers of melted plastic are extruded out a hot nozzle and fused together in a pattern to create an object. The material is usually melted just past its glass transition temperature, and then extruded in a pattern next to or on top of previously extruded material, creating an object layer by layer. FDM is quite accessible, user-friendly, and very well suited for proof-of-concept models, educational models, as well as quick and low-cost prototyping of parts that might typically be machined. FDM can also print in a wide variety of strong, flexible, weather-resistant, hardy, or otherwise exotic thermoplastics, even those that include things like wood pulp to be sanded and stained, or metal particulate to be polished and oxidized.
The FDM series gives makers all the tools they’ll need to operate a 3D printer safely and effectively. The 100-level courses provide operation instruction for the machines themselves, while the 200-level courses teach makers how to troubleshoot and maintain the printers. It’s a great place to get started.
Desktop SLA 3D Printing
Stereolithography, or “SLA” 3D printing, uses mirrors, known as galvanometers or “galvos,” to rapidly aim a laser beam across a vat of liquid photopolymer resin, selectively curing and solidifying a cross-section of the object inside this building area, building it up layer by layer as the build plate and cured object are pulled out of the uncured resin goo slowly. Think of this sort of like Han Solo coming out of carbonite!
SLA is a bit messier and more expensive than traditional FDM printers, but finished prints are sleeker, more accurate, and higher quality. Additionally, resins may be a bit more versatile than standard thermoplastics – some available resins include ceramic, castable wax, and even dental or autoclaving surgical resins.
The SLA series prepares makers to use the SLA machines safely and effectively. The 100-level courses provide operation and post-processing instruction for the machines themselves, while the 200-level courses teach makers how to troubleshoot and repair or tune up the printers.
Industrial 3D Printing
Industrial 3D printers vary in size and function, but typically offer features that standard 3D printers can’t. Industrial printers may work in different materials, such as carbon fiber and metal, or they may have heightened quality. These printers are more commonly used in industrial or commercial applications such as rapid manufacturing facilities and construction companies. Some industrial printers like our Stratasys J750 can even print full-color, photorealistic objects in multiple materials at once!
The STR and EOS subseries teach makers how to use the industrial FDM industrial polyjet, and even metal 3D printers present in the Laramie Wyrkshop. The courses cover operation, post-processing, and some very basic maintenance procedures, giving makers valuable experience with machines that are found increasingly across a wide range of industries.