FDM vs SLA Technologies:Is FDM or SLA Better?

In recent years, 3D printing is no longer considered an unknown concept, even more advanced technologies are already being used in our daily lives. Of course, how much 3D printing can change manufacturing, what exactly 3D printing does, and how it works, if you are interested, we can learn more about this technology and its applications.

Simply explained, 3D printing is the process of taking a 3D model file and reducing it to a physical object using a 3D printer. FDM and SLA are two very popular 3D printing technologies. This tutorial will do a comparison of FDM and SLA. When people want to learn about 3D printing or choose a 3D printer to buy, they probably need to understand both FDM and SLA, which are closely related but have many differences in printing principles and processes.

In general, people recommend FDM printers to beginners first, so the concept that people understand is also about FDM. However, the principle of 3D printing technology was actually the first derived from the concept of light-curing additive manufacturing, Stereolithography or SLA. Let’s find out the secrets of both techniques.

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What is the difference between FDM and SLA 3D printing?

Fused Deposition Modeling: FDM 3d printing meaning

Fused deposition modeling, also known as fused filament fabrication(FFF), is a common type of additive manufacturing. The technique uses thermoplastic material, which is melted by heating at high temperatures and deposited layer by layer to form the desired shape. It dictates that the core components of the FDM 3d printer are: the extruder, nozzle, print bed, hot ends, and materials that the FDM printer use. From a practical point of view, the core components and materials used in the SLA 3D printer are completely different.

Stereolithography: SLA 3D printing meaning

Stereolithography is also an additive manufacturing process, which is based on the principle of gathering ultraviolet laser light onto a light-sensitive resin to cure it into the shape anticipated by the digital model and using the photochemical reaction to complete the manufacturing of 3D models layer by layer. The main material of the SLA 3D printer is resin. Traditional or standard SLA printing uses a controlled laser beam to track each layer. With the development of technology, more efficient solutions are available. Now the common SLA 3D printers on the market are equipped with LCD screens. LCD printers can achieve a full layer of light curing in 3 to 5 seconds, there is a significant increase in speed compared to lasers that need to track every detail.

Is FDM or SLA better?

We have a preliminary understanding of these two technologies, FDM and SLA. They all have their own characteristics and limitations, but are there absolute advantages? The answer is that depending on your needs.

Print Speed: comparison of FDM and SLA printing speed

Which 3D printing method is the fastest? How can we measure the speed of 3D printing is fast? To answer the question about printing speed, we need to consider these main points: 3D printing technology, machine parameters, size and complexity of the 3D model, quality of the print, and even the nozzle size, and the layer height. It sounds a bit complicated, but its complexity also determines its flexibility and operability. By considering these factors, it can help you choose what kind of machine to use. When you already have a machine, knowing these factors, you can adjust a more suitable printer to create the perfect model you have in mind.

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The problem can also be simple if we only compare the printing speed of two different technologies, FDM and SLA 3D printing. The answer is SLA printer will be faster. This is mainly due to these different characteristics. SLA printer uses a laser beam to cure the resin. Many SLA printers on the market that use LCD screens can already print out a complete layer of model slices through a single light curing. While FDM printers require repeated movements of the X and Y axes to deliver molten material on each part of a layer, then proceed to the next layer of the model. When the layer is larger, the more time it takes to print. This process obviously takes much more longer than the time it takes to make a single exposure and cure with an SLA printer.

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Print Time: comparison of FDM and SLA print time

Generally speaking, it may take 3-10 hours to print a moderately sized model using an FDM printer, then five times as long to print 5 models. SLA printer is more efficient. It can print 5 models at the same time and it takes time as printing just one model. The same principle as explained above, printing a layer of the 3D model with an SLA printer requires one exposure and the resin curing time while printing it with an FDM printer requires the print nozzle to move to each point of this layer.

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So as long as the printing bed is big enough, with the SLA 3D printer, it takes us 3 hours to print 1 boat, and it only takes 3 hours to print 5 boats. What is more interesting, we can also print different models at the same time.

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Print Size:

If fast printing is the advantage of an SLA printer, then the advantages of an FDM 3D printer are the larger print size, easier post-processing, less pungent odors, etc. Usually, we choose SLA to print miniature models because it is more detailed. But when we want to print a handheld prop for cosplay, or we want to add a creative and practical decoration at home, then the size of SLA printed models can not meet the demand, we will choose FDM printers. Let’s look at the size difference between FDM and SLA printers:

Typical build size of a desktop FDM 3D printer is 200 x 200 x 200mm.
Typical build size of a desktop SLA 3D printer is 145 x 145 x 175mm.
Desktop FDM 3D printers are available in large build sizes up to 400 x 400 x 450 mm.
Desktop SLA 3D printers are available in large build sizes up to 300 x 335 x 200mm.

Print Quality:

In terms of printing fineness, the details depicted by the SLA printer are clearer and more precise. Even a model with a small size can be restored to tiny details, and the printed object is recognized by everyone for its exquisiteness.

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However, if we look at the strength of the 3D model, SLA-printed models with resin as the raw material are a bit more fragile. Ordinary resin material will face the problem of being easy to break, and the humidity and light in the environment will gradually reduce the toughness of resin material. Resin models are fragile and easy to break when bent, especially where is thin, and they are also more unsuitable for outdoor environments. The model will even have the possibility of cracking.

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FDM vs SLA: Which 3D Printer Should You Buy?

Both FDM and SLA are well worth exploring, there will be a lot of fun to be found in the process of deeper understanding and exploration. For beginners, people usually recommend choosing an FDM printer because it is also considered simpler to use and easier to operate.

In fact, we can also use the choice of preference as a reference. If you like to build large models, objects for daily use, items for role play o cosplay, then FDM printer is a better choice. FDM 3D printer can print out the basic proof-of-concept model, can make some household items, restore the game equipment, etc. Anycubic Kobra Go is an entry-level FDM 3D printer, with a user-friendly auto-leveling system that is simple and efficient. Anycubic Kobra Go must be the most ideal choice for those who want to try FDM 3D printer.

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If you are interested in delicate models, if you want to turn the ideal character into an ornament in your hands, which is able to paint and full of details that can be viewed, then SLA 3D printer is the more correct choice. Pick Anycubic Photon M3 as your first SLA printer, it is a fully functional and high quality printer. The 7.6 inch 4K+ monochrome LCD screen is one of its highlights, with an ultra-high resolution of 4096 x 2560 pixels and the ability to print miniature with high-precision details, Anycubic Photon Mono X has a large print size of 180mm*164mm*102mm, which can also meet more diverse needs as well as creativity.

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