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Putting in the work to buy one of the best 3D printers can be an incredibly rewarding experience. But before you get into creating objects — whether for work or pleasure — you’ll need to know which printing process is right for your needs. Only then can you select the best printer for the job. So keep reading as we compare two of the most common types of 3D printers: FDM vs DLP.
If you finish this article and want to keep reading, we have plenty of other 3D printer-related material. For example, we have a great comparison article on Delta vs Cartesian 3D printers. And for information on the different filament types, we have one on PLA vs ABS 3D printers.
If you want a finer quality to the finish of your 3D object, be sure to use the thinnest layer height available.
Every 3D printer makes objects by forming many layers on top of one another. However, there are many approaches to accomplishing this. And each method uses different materials. So, depending on which you use to determine things like the overall object quality, print time, and cost of operation.
The most common method used by 3D printers is FDM, which stands for fused deposition modeling. This model takes the role of plastic filament and feeds it into the printer. The filament is heated, melted, and comes out of the nozzle onto a build plate. The printer continues layering filament until the model is complete.
DLP printers use liquid resin instead of plastic filament. First, a vat is filled with liquid resin. Then, a UV backlight shines onto the resin as the build platforms lower/raises. As the platform moves, the laser cures the liquid resin, forming the object.
Feel free to check out our additional resources on Bowden vs Direct Drive 3D printers. And if you want to know more about printer types, we have another one comparing FDMs vs SLAs.
DLP printers are known to create high-resolution, accurate objects according to the model. This is because a DLP can produce models with extremely thin layers (as low as 75 microns.) Because of this, DLPs can produce extremely intricate objects.
FDM printers are used more for basic objects, creating objects with thicker layers, which produce a rougher quality.
Also, remember that object quality is determined by whether you use 2K vs 4K liquid printer resin. And likewise, for FDMs, using 3mm vs 1.75mm filament helps determine overall print quality.
DLPs are also superior in terms of speed because the curing process takes less than 3 seconds for each layer. FMDs are slower. To put it into perspective, a DLP can print up to 15cm per hour, while FDM print around .3cm per hour. Therefore, DLPs are great for printing many parts at once.
3D printers, including both FDMs and DLPs, release toxic fumes. Ensure you have proper ventilation whenever operating your printer.
Liquid resin is a highly versatile substance. It can be cured at different stages. Therefore, depending on your needs, you can cure it to be more brittle or rubbery. A wide variety of resins can also be used to get more textures.
Although FDMs are less versatile, printer owners can select from a few filaments. Then, depending on your choice, you can print objects in a wide variety of textures.
In the end, DLPs are more versatile in terms of material capability because DLP printers have more applications that allow operators to choose highly technical options. These applications give them greater accuracy in terms of quality of finish, stiffness, or density.
Applications are also available for FDM printers, but they are less dynamic and aren’t capable of as much.
STAT: FDM 3D printers were invented in 1988 by Scott Crump. (source)
The average cost to run a 3D printer depends on the type of printer and the materials used. Generally, FDM printers are more affordable than DLP printers, but they also require more maintenance and use more filament.
Affordable FDM printers can be found for just over $100. On the other hand, DLP printers can be costly. The cheapest tend to start at $500, but high-end models cost up to $100,000.