WHICH 3D PRINTING TECHNOLOGY & MATERIAL TO USE?

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In 3D printing, there is a sharp trade-off between cost & resolution. If you want an object fast & cheap and you don't mind if it looks "3D printed", then FDM is definitely the way to go. In fact, if it's a large functional part where you don't care about the aesthetics or if it's an early draft version of a prototype, then you can further save money by doing a coarse resolution FDM print.

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This is because the rougher the resolution, the cheaper the build cost & the faster the print time. This is how 3D printing can build an entire house in a few days at half the cost of conventional building methods (even though the technology is still rapidly improving & not yet fully matured). If consumers can get over the rough layer lines of 3D printed homes, we are on the verge of a future where nobody will ever be homeless ever again.

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If you want a more refined look with only a tiny bit of layer lines (or if the part is too large to be printed via MSLA 3D printing), then fine resolution FDM is the way to go. Fine resolution FDM still has some layer lines. But it will not be very noticeable, especially from a distance.

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Besides resolution, another consideration is temperature resistance. If the part will always be kept indoors & never accidentally left inside a hot car or out in the sun, then PLA is definitely the way to go. PLA is cheap, fast, & offers the most beautiful surface finish of any FDM material. But it isn't very temperature resistant & will start warping around 60C.

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If you want something a little more temperature resistant, like tradeshow models that might need to be transported inside a hot shipping container or sitting in a paper box baking under the hot sun, then PETG is the material of choice. With a little sanding, priming, & painting, PETG looks just as good as PLA but with the added benefit of being more durable & temperature resistant.

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We also offer FDM materials for engineering applications. If you need flexible parts for flexible prototype objects or flexible replacement parts, we offer 3D printing in TPU. If you need something more durable & heat resistant for automotive replacement parts or robot joints, we also offer 3D printing in ABS. 

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If the part needs to look absolutely smooth with no visible layer lines, then it's best to get it resin 3D printed via MSLA 3D printing. MSLA 3D printing is generally more expensive with a longer lead time than FDM 3D printing. But the surface finish of MSLA 3D printing is almost perfectly smooth & flawless. In fact, MSLA 3D prints will be almost indistinguishable from smooth injection molded parts.

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MSLA 3D printing also has the added benefit of offering a wide range of engineering-grade materials ranging from wax for investment casting to super temperature resistant polymer for injection mold prototypes. 

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All 3D printed materials (with the exception of flexible materials), can be sanded, painted, & finished into amazing-looking scale models or beautiful-looking prototypes. This is because most paints sold at Home Depot or craft stores will crack on flexible surfaces. Painting flexibles will need special paints made just for flexible rubber.