3D Printing


3D Printing

We provide rapid 3D print services as an online and local manufacturing partner to businesses and individuals nationwide.

Createproto offers a wide range of 3D printing services to ensure that you always have the right solution for your project. Whether your business needs parts, prototypes or consumer products, 3D metal and plastic printing can add value throughout product development and production.

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What Is 3D Printing ?

3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is a family of processes that produces objects by adding material in layers that correspond to successive cross-sections of a 3D model. Plastics and metal alloys are the most commonly used materials for 3D printing, but it can work on nearly anything—from concrete to living tissue.

Want to learn how to design your products to get the most out of 3D printing? Check out our Design for Additive Manufacturing Guide for an in-depth look at the unique capabilities of 3D printing. We even off 3D Printing for Prototyping to help with product testing.

Types of 3D Printers?

The three most established types of 3D printers for plastics parts are stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), and fused deposition modeling (FDM). Formlabs offers two professional 3D printing technologies, SLA and SLS, bringing these powerful and accessible industrial fabrication tools into the creative hands of professionals around the world.

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography was the world’s first 3D printing technology, invented in the 1980s, and is still one of the most popular technologies for professionals. SLA 3D printers use a laser to cure liquid resin into hardened plastic in a process called photopolymerization.

SLA resin 3D printers have become vastly popular for their ability to produce high-accuracy, isotropic, and watertight prototypes and parts in a range of advanced materials with fine features and smooth surface finish. SLA resin formulations offer a wide range of optical, mechanical, and thermal properties to match those of standard, engineering, and industrial thermoplastics.

Resin 3D printing a great option for highly detailed prototypes requiring tight tolerances and smooth surfaces, such as molds, patterns, and functional parts. SLA 3D printers are widely used in a range of industries from engineering and product design to manufacturing, dentistry, jewelry, model making, and education.

Stereolithography is ideal for:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Functional prototyping
  • Concept modeling
  • Short-run production
  • Dental applications
  • Jewelry prototyping and casting
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Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printers use a high-power laser to sinter small particles of polymer powder into a solid structure. The unfused powder supports the part during printing and eliminates the need for dedicated support structures. This makes SLS ideal for complex geometries, including interior features, undercuts, thin walls, and negative features. Parts produced with SLS printing have excellent mechanical characteristics, with strength resembling that of injection-molded parts.

The most common material for selective laser sintering is nylon, a popular engineering thermoplastic with excellent mechanical properties. Nylon is lightweight, strong, and flexible, as well as stable against impact, chemicals, heat, UV light, water, and dirt.

The combination of low cost per part, high productivity, and established materials make SLS a popular choice among engineers for functional prototyping, and a cost-effective alternative to injection molding for limited-run or bridge manufacturing.

Selective laser sintering is ideal for:
Functional prototyping
End-use parts
Short-run, bridge, or custom manufacturing

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Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused deposition modeling (FDM), also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF), is the most widely used type of 3D printing at the consumer level. FDM 3D printers work by extruding thermoplastic filaments, such as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), PLA (Polylactic Acid), through a heated nozzle, melting the material and applying the plastic layer by layer to a build platform. Each layer is laid down one at a time until the part is complete.

FDM 3D printers are well-suited for basic proof-of-concept models, as well as quick and low-cost prototyping of simple parts, such as parts that might typically be machined. However, FDM has the lowest resolution and accuracy when compared to SLA or SLS and is not the best option for printing complex designs or parts with intricate features. Higher-quality finishes may be obtained through chemical and mechanical polishing processes. Industrial FDM 3D printers use soluble supports to mitigate some of these issues and offer a wider range of engineering thermoplastics, but they also come at a steep price.

Fused deposition modeling is ideal for:
Basic proof-of-concept models
Simple prototyping

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What is 3D printing used for?

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PROTOTYPING
3D printing has long been used to quickly create prototypes for visual aids, assembly mockups, and presentation models.

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CUSTOM MEDICAL IMPLANTS
To achieve osseointegration, manufacturers are using 3D printing to precisely control surface porosity to better mimic real bone structure.

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LIGHTWEIGHT PARTS
Fuel efficiency and emissions reductions are driving the need for lightweight parts via 3D printing in aerospace and automotive applications.

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TOOLINGS, JIGS, AND FEATURES
3D printed composite tooling and machining fixtures are often cheaper and faster to produce, and conformally cooled inserts for injection molds can dramatically reduce cycle times.

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FUNCTIONALLY ENHANCED PRODUCTS
3D printing removes many of the constraints imposed by traditional manufacturing processes that prevent engineers from truly designing for optimal performance.

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METAL CASTING PATTERNS
Combining 3D printing with metal casting bridges the gap between generatively designed parts and proven manufacturing approaches for large metal objects.