Why 3D Printing Advanced Materials Are Different
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM®) and PolyJet® from Stratasys are two of the most advanced and effective Additive Manufacturing (AM) available today. While there is an overlap in terms of advantages and applications, the two different technologies are distinct from each other and offer different benefits. With an understanding of their differences, companies can better decide on the right technology to serve their requirements.
How FDM technology works
The thermoplastic material is extruded layer by layer onto a build tray from a patented temperature-controlled heated chamber. Once the part is completed, the support material is removed with post-processing required to prepare the surface for molding or painting.
How PolyJet technology works
Similar to conventional inkjet printing and supporting multiple materials, photopolymer materials and support are deposited in ultra-thin layers in the build tray through a print head carriage (with 4 or more nozzles and ultraviolet (UV) lamps). Each layer is cured on exposure to UV light, producing fully cured models that can be used immediately. The gel-like support material is subsequently removed by water jetting.
Key criteria to consider when choosing the relevant technology
With distinct characteristics and advantages between them, there are a few key criteria that one can consider when choosing between either using FDM or PolyJet technology for their application.
FDM produces durable parts that are ready for end-use applications and for businesses where fit and function are critical. PolyJet creates parts that can be made from different materials in one print and colors with great intricacy and exceptional details that are essential for concept models.
3D print durable parts with production-grade thermoplastics, that are similar to the strong stable plastics used in injection molding, CNC machining, and other traditional manufacturing processes. FDM materials possess specialized properties like toughness, electrostatic dissipation, translucence, biocompatibility, VO flammability and FST ratings that allow them to withstand tight tolerances, harsh testing, and challenging environments.
FDM’s production-grade thermoplastics are known for their durability, possess mechanical properties that stay consistent over time, and quality. This makes FDM suitable for creating detailed functional prototypes, manufacturing tools that stay durable over time, and low-volume manufacturing of parts.
PolyJet offers exceptional levels of detailing and final product realism that no other 3D printing technologies can achieve. With the ability to simulate clear, flexible and rigid materials and engineering plastics, combine multiple material properties into one model, PolyJet photopolymers ensure that prototypes look like final products.
Printed models are precisely printed layer by layer that is as fine as 16 microns, and possess smooth surfaces with complex geometries. Exacting demands of businesses are met thanks to the good mechanical properties of PolyJet materials from rubber to rigid, transparent to opaque, and standard to biocompatible.
Surface finish and aesthetics are crucial for concept modeling and certain prototypes, and PolyJet’s ability to use multiple materials and their attention to detail makes it a good option. FDM meanwhile can print parts with complex geometries and intricate components. Although layer lines are present on FDM printed parts, this does not affect the strength or functionality of the part, with post-processing able to ensure a smooth surface if needed.
With both technologies offering different qualities, the decision ultimately lies on how and where the part will be used. PolyJet is the option for businesses looking to print high-resolution and ultra-fine parts. For businesses looking for durability and end-use function under extreme conditions, FDM would be the go-to choice.