3D printing technologies in comparison

3D printing (also known as "additive manufacturing") consists of creating physical objects from virtual 3D models.The process is carried out through the progressive deposition of thin layers of material, contrary to what happens in traditional processing techniques (called "subtractive"), based on the removal of material from an initial block.
La stampa 3D

Born in 1986 with the publication of Chuck Hull patent (he was the inventor of stereolithography and founder of the Company 3D Systems), 3D printing has evolved and differentiated over time, thanks to the introduction of new printing techniques and numerous materials with specific mechanical characteristics, usable both individually and in combination.

This variety has allowed 3D printing to spread more and more, so that today you can see it applied in the most different fields: from architecture to automotive, from jewelry to the aerospace industry, from hosiery to the medical and dental sector.

FDM, SLA, SLS and POLYJET: features, advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing major techniques

Each 3D printing technology has specific features and – inevitably – a number of advantages and disadvantages that differentiate it from the others.

Let’s see together the peculiarities and all the main strengths and weaknesses of the four most used techniques today: FDM, SLA, SLS e POLYJET.

FDM (fused deposition modeling)

FDM is an additive production process belonging to the material extrusion family. This 3D printing technique allows you to make objects from a solid filament, which is then melted and deposited layer by layer by the 3D printer head. The materials used are thermoplastic polymers.


The most known polymers used in the FDM method are PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene).The PLA is usually extruded at a melting temperature varying between 180 °C and 220 °C, while the ABS between 220 °C and 250 °C. Contrary to the latter, the PLA does not emit potentially damaging fumes when melted and processed. However, ABS printed objects are less fragile, more resistant to high temperatures and more flexible.

Today FDM is the most popular 3D printing technology: it represents the largest installed 3D printer base in the world and is often the first technology to which people are exposed, thanks to the media visibility of which it enjoys.

Post-production of FDM printing models is done by removing the supports manually or with soluble supports in different types of solvents.


  1. Cheap technology

  2. Biocompatible materials

  3. Soluble supports

  4. Good mechanical resistance

  5. Recyclable materials

  6. Printing in multiple materials (up to 4)



  1. Low print speed

  2. No materiali transparent materials

Creation of Medics 3D model with FDM technology

SLA (Stereolithography)

Invented in the 80s, stereolithography is the first 3D printing technique and is still one of the most widely used technologies at the professional level.

The SLA uses an ultraviolet laser to polymerize liquid photosensitive resin in solid plastic, through a process called photopolymerization.

The main application of this technology is rapid prototyping, which allows to obtain physical objects to be tested before industrial production.However, SLA printers can be used in many other areas, starting with jewellery and dentistry.


  1. Transparent materials

  2. Biocompatible materials

  3. Good mechanical resistance

  4. High speed of printing

  5. Opaque soft materials


  1. Expensive technology

  2. Mechanical removal of supports

  3. Non recyclable materials

  4. Mono-material

Medics 3D model realized with SLA technology

SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)

3D printing based on the SLS technique uses a high power laser beam that fuses small particles of polymer powder inside a closed chamber. The most used material is nylon and the costs are contained.

Today it is the most common additive manufacturing technology for industrial applications.


  1. Biocompatible materials

  2. No supports

  3. High speed of printing

  4. Very good mechanical resistance

  5. Opaque soft materials


  1. Very expensive technology

  2. Mono-material

  3. Controlled environment

  4. Closed systems

  5. Non recyclable materials

  6. No transparent materials

  7. Stationary filling

Medics surgical guides realized with SLS technology

POLYJET (Multi-material jetting)

Polyjet 3D printers work similarly to traditional 2D printing, but instead of releasing ink drops, they deposit layers of solidifiable liquid photopolymers on a tray. As soon as they are laid, the drops of liquid photopolymers are polymerized with UV rays. As in the case of FDM, when there are protrusions or complex shapes that require support, the Polyjet printer deposits a removable support material, which will then be easily removed by hand, with water or with a solution.


  1. Bio-compatible materials

  2. Soluble supports

  3. Multi-material (up to 7)

  4. Transparent materials (with post-production)

  5. High speed of printing

  6. Opaque soft materials


  1. Low mechanical resistance

  2. Very expensive technology

  3. Controlled environment

  4. Closed systems

  5. Non recyclable materials

  6. Generation of many supports

  7. Stationary filling

Medics 3D model realized with PolyJet technology

Fonti: Formlabs



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