3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a technology that uses a digital model file as the basis for constructing an object by printing layer by layer using an adhesive material such as powdered metal or plastic. The equipment is called a 3D printer, and there are usually two types: desktop-grade 3D printers and industry-grade 3D printers. Desktop 3D printers are often used for prototyping.

The ordinary printers used in daily life can print computer-designed flat items. The principle of 3D printing and conventional printing is the same, but their materials differ. Normal printers print with ink and paper, whereas 3D printers print with metal, ceramic, plastic, sand, and other materials. Having the printer connected to the computer allows the computer to print the materials layer by layer, making the blueprint become a physical object. Generally speaking, a 3D printer is a device that can print real 3D objects, such as printing a robot, a toy car, various models, and even food, etc. It is commonly called a printer because it refers to the technical principles of ordinary printers and the layering process is very similar to ink-jet printing.

There are many different techniques for 3D printing. They differ in the way the materials are available and are built in different layers to produce parts.

Common materials used for 3D printing are resin, nylon fiberglass, durable nylon materials, gypsum materials, aluminum materials, titanium, stainless steel, silver plating, gold plating, and rubber-like materials.

As 3D printing technology is developing, there are more and more types of 3D printers. They can be roughly classified into desktop-grade 3D printers and industrial-grade 3D printers. 

1. Desktop-grade 3D printers

As the name implies, it is a printer that is compact and can be placed on the desk to print three-dimensional objects. This kind of printer has the advantages of simple and convenient operation. They are widely applied in 3D printing technologies types such as FDM (Fused Filament Fabrication), SLA (Stereolithography), DLP (Digital Light Processing), etc.

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2. Industry-grade 3D printers

Industry-grade 3D printers are generally used for industrial purposes and currently, process metal and polymer materials, which are also the most common raw materials in traditional manufacturing.

3D printers for industrial use have many applications in aerospace, automotive, medical, electronics, and other industries, and are used mostly in large-scale industrial production. The productivity of industrial 3d printers is often higher than that of desktop-grade 3d printers. A large printing platform on industrial 3d printers allows them to print larger parts at once and more models at the same time.

3. How desktop-grade 3D printers are applied for prototyping?

Rapid prototyping via 3D printers happened very early since they were created. The 3D printers used are often desktop-grade, using SLA, SLS, SLM, and FDM 3D printing technologies for different materials in most cases. Please have a look at the below form for your reference.

3D printing technology Materials
SLA UV curable resin
SLS Thermoplastics
SLM Titanium alloy, cobalt-chromium, stainless steel, aluminum
FDM Thermoplastics, eutectic system metals, edible materials

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Unlike CNC machines, using a 3D printer to make prototypes, you don’t have to design fixtures to fix raw materials before processing and there is no waste of materials. Their self-driven software can quickly calculate printing time and required materials, with no professional training required. They are also easy to maintain and clean up. Rapid prototyping through 3D printers takes less time from several hours to dozens of hours, thus reducing the product development period by at least 40%.

Of course, there are also drawbacks to rapid prototyping by 3D printers. On one hand, the costs of printing metal parts and large-sized parts are relatively high. On the other hand, the printed components are less broken-resistant, wear-resistant, and heat-resistant than CNC machined.

Choosing the optimal prototyping process is not a problem for professional prototyping manufacturers. With over 10 years of experience, X Rapid Technologies is happy to provide you best solutions.