SLA vs. FDM for a 3D Printer

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Updated January 3, 2023

3D printing technology features many types of creative techniques. However, you may wonder which is better for you: SLA vs. FDM for a 3D printer. Consumers have to choose between SLA and its resin printing and FDM with its filament printing, among the best printers. Each option offers many advantages, including strength, durability, and affordability for FDM and detail and smooth surface finishes for SLA. For more information, check out this article about the properties of a resin 3D printer vs. filament and vice versa.


  • Most filament printers use FDM technology to create strong and durable prints in various colors.
  • SLA devices, however, create 3D models out of liquid resin by curing it with a laser, resulting in detailed, accurate, good-quality objects.
  • If you are looking for an affordable method of 3D printing, you want an FDM printer for objects without a lot of details.

FDM vs. SLA For 3D Prints

The primary difference between FDM and SLA printers lies in the materials that they use to create objects. Resin printers come in the form of SLA or DLP, though many people use SLA technology. FDMs utilize melted filaments to create designs, and these machines create objects in a wide range of colors. Each type of 3D printer offers its strengths, so read on to find out more. Also, some 3D models look smoother than others because of the difference in scale between 50 microns vs. 100 microns while printing.

FDM Filament Prints

FDM stands for fused deposition modeling, and it refers to printers that melt filaments and push them through a nozzle to layer into the 3D design. Once the 3D object has been created layer by layer, the filament cools and solidifies into the desired shape. Some FDMs use ABS plastic to stay hot throughout the 3D printing process and cool afterward, while others create designs using PLA that cools after being layered. To find out more about ABS vs. PLA for a 3D printer and its applications, check out our article on filament print production. And, if you want to know more about resin types, read our resource guide to 2K vs 4K resin printers.

Insider Tip

SLA offers improved attention to detail and overall finish quality.

Advantages of FDM Technology

FDM allows for a quicker manufacturing speed at lower prices. FDM machines generally cost less than SLA, and the materials cost significantly less. Filaments also offer a wider variety of colors and ease of use. The materials required for FDM cost about $24-99, while SLA costs $100-200. Additionally, models created using FDM are more durable than SLA ones. However, the strength of the model also depends on the filament used. PLA is stronger and more durable than ABS, but ABS offers smoother finishes and post-processing options.

However, if you’re more interested in a 3D pen vs a 3D printer, our guide can help you.

SLA Resin Prints

Many resin printers feature stereolithography apparatus (SLA) 3D printing technology, which uses a UV laser to cure points within the object throughout printing. This method provides excellent detail and smooth edges. Just like FDM, SLA technology adds layer-by-layer details to the print. However, SLA works within a resin vat filled with standard liquid resins. This method cures each point on the print using a UV laser during printing. The laser is directed using a digital micromirror device. The other type of resin printing features digital light processing (DLP.)

Advantages of SLA Technology

Although SLA prints take longer and have a higher price tag, users can achieve more detail in their designs. The cured resin provides a smooth surface finish for these designs because the printing layers can be shorter. SLA can have layer heights of about 20 microns, while FDM has a much higher minimum layer thickness of 50 microns. As a result, these devices result in more dimensional accuracy and printing quality as well. Finally, SLA is not as reliant on printing temperature since it uses light instead of heat.


FDM printers offer an affordable option, but they cannot print as small of layers.


When was stereolithography printing invented?

Stereolithography printing was invented in 1983, though the patent wasn’t solidified until March 11, 1986, with Chuck Hull.

How accurate is stereolithography printing?

Stereolithography printing has better dimensional accuracy than FDM printing due to its ability to create smaller layers.

How Do Print Times Vary Between FDM & SLA?

FDM generally prints faster than SLA, since the filament is heated and shaped into layers by a nozzle. SLA has to cure every point on each layer separately.

STAT: In addition, the number of manufacturers using 3D printing for full-scale production has doubled between 2018 and 2019, and the overall market is expected to exceed $20 billion by 2022 with an anticipated CAGR between 18.2 27.2%. (source)

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