3D Printers

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Types of 3D printers / rapid prototyping methods

Fused deposition modeling (FDM)

  • A tiny glue gun of plastic makes tiny blobs which solidify into a larger solid
  • Additive process
  • Suitable for home if you don't mind it making a lot of terrifying noises
  • terrible with overhangs. if using dual extruder can print support with PVA (dissolvable filament) and then wash in bath. this bath is toxic though, not great for home environment.
  • not really smooth. can use XTC-3D or Acetone vapour bath to smooth out printing lines. however, very toxic fumes, must not be used in home environment.
  • eg: most consumer ones. ultimaker. lulzbot. printrbot (too simple). makerbot (is evil - avoid)

Stereolithography (SLA)

  • Laser shoots through a resin/polymer bath and solidifies it into a solid, then the print emerges from the liquid bath
  • Additive Process
  • not bad with overhangs. pretty solid.
  • Not suitable for home - resin baths and cleaning baths produce toxic fumes - needs ventilation
  • material cost can potentially run very high due to additional cleaning baths required... unlike FDM which just involves filament cost
  • eg: Titan 1, Form 1

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

  • laser sinters the top layer of a powder tray, heating and compacting and solidifying the powder, then the object can be dusted off at the end
  • Additive process
  • Not suitable for home - too much powder - inhalation can cause respiratory problems
  • quite smooth. can be sanded down to a perfectly matt smooth surface. just don't breathe in the powder.
  • good with overhangs


  • tiny jets shoot tiny droplets of photosensitive resin which are also hit with UV rays at the exact spot, solidifying it on the spot
  • Additive process
  • very smooth
  • probably very expensive thats why i never see it


  • Inkjet technology (can do with colour) - a resin inkjet printed in thin layers which solidify into a larger solid
  • Plaster powder
  • Additive process
  • Not suitable for home - too much powder - inhalation can cause respiratory problems
  • best and cheaper for college prints though
  • may be quite fragile or brittle as it is just powder expertly glued together into a block

Buying a printer

I am looking for something that: (1) has a big print area and as high a resolution as possible (2) can use generic filament (ideally not proprietary filament/resins) (3) light enough to move by myself on my own (ie: cannot be not exceedingly heavy or ridiculously huge!) (4) has tetherless printing and can be reliable enough to be left in the studio overnight to print on its own... (5) and if it comes assembled thats even better (saves time) but ultimately I'm not averse to assembling it myself


  • LulzBot TAZ 4
  • Ultimaker 2

Finally bought

Ultimaker 2

  • not evil
  • not an evil patent thief
  • opensource
  • promises not to steal from community designs
  • comes assembled
  • tiniest footprint of all the printers today
  • lowest noise profile (SUPPOSEDLY???)
  • can be picked up in a shop in london