A Comparative : The Two Most Popular Types of 3D Printers

FDM Vs SLA Is Filament Vs Resin

We are taking a closer look at the two most popular 3D printers: FDM and SLA 3D printers, also known as filament and resin 3D printers. Both have been adapted and made better for the desktop, hence, they are more affordable and capable, and easier to use. Let us see how they compare in terms of applications, materials, quality of print, cost, and others.

Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM is the most widely used 3D printer in the market. It works by extruding thermoplastic filaments through a hot nozzle, melting the material and applying the plastic layer by layer to a build platform one at a time until the part is complete. They are well-suited for basic proof-of-concept models and fast and low-cost prototyping of simple parts, such as machined parts.


Stereolithography or SLA or resin 3D printing is the opposite of FDM, melting plastic into liquid, using a UV reactive liquid that’s hardened under light. Each cured layer uses an LED array that emits light in a set pattern. This process is called photopolymerization. It has the ability to produce high-accuracy, isotropic, and watertight prototypes and parts in a range of advanced materials with fine features and smooth surface finish. It is suitable for detailed models, miniatures that are quite complex to work with.
In terms of print quality and precision, due to the process by which layers are formed the surface quality, level of precision, and the accuracy of each layer, and consequently, the overall print quality are affected. FDM printers tend to produce uneven layers, with voids in between; unlike SLA printers that produce fine features, smooth surface finish, ultimate part precision, and accuracy.

In terms of materials and applications, due to the abundance of color options and various experimental plastic filaments blends, FDM 3D printing is popular among the hobbyist space sector. However, engineering materials and high-performance thermoplastics that are also available are often limited to selected professional FDM printers. SLA resin materials have the benefit of a wide range of formulation configurations, or those with additives, or those with mechanical properties like high heat deflection temperature or impact resistance. There are various resin formulations that offer a wide range of optical, mechanical, and thermal properties.

In terms of cost, FDM 3D printers are low- cost machines, a main selling point. They are easier to use and more tailored to businesses. They create the cheapest parts if only relatively simple prototypes in limited numbers. SLA printers are at a slight premium as they offer higher resolution, better quality, and more printing materials choices; they become more cost-effective as designs become more complex and batches larger. This is due to SLA’s less labor-intensive post-processing.

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