When prototyping a new product, it is often difficult to know whether to choose between FDM or SLA 3D printing. Whilst both technologies are able to produce a quality 3D print, each has benefits and weaknesses.

SLA 3D Printing

FDM is the cheaper way of 3D prototyping your products. It builds up layers of melted plastic to create the final 3D print and with this method, you have a wide choice of materials and colours to create your final product from. However, where you save money you comprise quality.

3D prints made using FDM technology are constructed from the bottom up and the finest details achievable are dependant on the size of the nozzle in the printer. As it can be difficult for the printer to have complete control over the plastic once it’s molten, it can suffer from issues where it’s not able to produce highly accurate features including holes.

With SLA 3D printing technology, a UV laser is used to cure a photopolymer into the desired shape so wherever the laser hits the resin, the resin will solidify. By using a complex optical engine consisting of an array of mirrors and galvanometers, the Form 2 which is the highest rated printer we use, can produce parts with a feature accuracy of +-0.2mm along with a much smoother surface finish that can be compared much more closely to the finish of injection moulded parts.

Due to this accuracy, SLA 3D printing has become the preferred method for prototyping, product development or anatomical printing. The different types of resin used in the process allow the 3D prototypes to have different physical properties. SLA printing is also often used to create moulds that can facilitate mass production of intricate items such as jewellery.

However, the main drawback with SLA 3D printing is that it is difficult to produce large scale prints. The height of your 3D prototype can only be as large as the depth of the resin. Making SLA printing the preferred 3D printing method for intricate product development.

3D Folkes offer both SLA AND FDM 3D prints along with large-scale capabilities in the FDM category to help us to create the best prototypes of your products. We also provide CAD design services so that we can help to transform your ideas into a detailed digital design. Contact us on 0114 2211 862 to find out more about our services or if you already have a design ready receive a free quote and get started.