There are a few ways to 3-D print, FDM, SLS, Additive Manufacturing.
FDM 3D Printing – Fused Deposition Modeling makes 3-D products that produce a low cost visual full size prototype. FDM works on an “additive” principle by laying down material in layers; a plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to produce a part.
SLS 3D Printing – Selective laser sintering is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a laser as the power source to sinter powdered material (typically metal), aiming the laser automatically at points in space defined by a 3D model, binding the material together to create a solid structure. It is similar to direct metal laser sintering (DMLS); the two are instantiations of the same concept but differ in technical details. Many selective laser sintering (SLS) patents were filed in the 1980s by the University of Texas at Austin’s Mechanical Engineering Department. Originally developed by an undergrad, those SLS patents generated some of the highest revenue through intellectual property for UT Austin for many years.
Additive Manufacturing, often referred to as three-dimensional (3D) printing is a way of making products and components from a digital model. It is being applied in a wide range of industries, including defense, aerospace, automotive, medical, and metals manufacturing.
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And compared with other forms of 3-D printing such as electron beam melting, stereolithography or laser sintering. It is that last kind I just mentioned, laser sintering, that is so important and more costly.