This paper aims to report on the findings of an investigation to compare three different three-dimensional printing (3DP) or additive manufacturing technologies [i.e. fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA) and material jetting (MJ)] and four different equipment (FDM, SLA, MJP 2600 and Object 260) in terms of their dimensional process capability (dimensional accuracy and surface roughness). It provides a comprehensive and comparative understanding about the level of attainable dimensional accuracy, repeatability and surface roughness of commonly used 3DP technologies. It is expected that these findings will help other researchers and industrialists in choosing the right technology and equipment for a given 3DP application.
A benchmark model of 5 × 5 cm with several common and challenging features, such as around protrusion and hole, flat surface, micro-scale ribs and micro-scale long channels was designed and printed repeatedly using four different equipment of three different 3DP technologies. The dimensional accuracy of the printed models was measured using non-contact digital measurement methods. The surface roughness was evaluated using a digital profilometer. Finally, the surface quality and edge sharpness were evaluated under a reflected light ZEISS microscope with a 50× magnification objective.
The results show that FDM technology with the used equipment results in a rough surface and loose dimensional accuracy. The SLA printer produced a smoother surface, but resulted in the distortion of thin features (<1 mm). MJ printers, on the other hand, produced comparable surface roughness and dimensional accuracy. However, ProJet MJP 3600 produced sharper edges when compared to the Objet 260 that produced round edges.
This paper, for the first time, provides a comprehensive comparison of three different commonly used 3DP technologies in terms of their dimensional capability and surface roughness without farther post-processing. Thus, it offers a reliable guideline for design consideration and printer selection based on the target application.
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