| Medical | Manufacturing & Prototyping

Sound-Off: What 3D-Printing Method is Best – FDM, SLS, or SLA?

Through the creation of specialty polymers, gels, meshes, fibers, and composites, the Anderson, SC-based medical device manufacturer Poly-Med has tailor-made a variety of medical devices. With additive-manufacturing processes, the materials are converted into 3D-printed implants.

Today's 3D-printing technologies can be divided into three main categories.

Scott Taylor, Chief Technology Officer, Poly-Med

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), a relatively inexpensive format, uses thermal energy to convert a monofilament into a desired shape.

Stereolithography (SLA), an increasingly popular manufacturing method, requires UV light to crosslink a resin into a solid object.

SLS, or Selective Laser Sintering, has seen many applications in metal processing; with SLS, a laser provides the thermal energy required to gather fine metal particles into a uniform layer.

So, which 3D-printing method is best?

During a live presentation this week titled “Adding Value to Additive Manufacturing, Creative Solutions Using Bioresorbable Polymers,” a reader asks Poly-Med’s M. Scott Taylor:

What are the advantages of using fused filament fabrication over other 3D-printing modalities?”

Scott Taylor, Chief Technology Officer, Poly-Med: The primary advantage of the FDM filament-based manufacturing is the relative ease of converting a variety of materials into a 3D-printed structure.

The stereolithography apparatus, where you’re converting a liquid resin into a solid, has limitations, as most of those formulations are relatively brittle and low-strength.

The laser sintering approach (SLS) is somewhat limited, even more so, in the availability of feedstocks; although SLS is quite capable in creating high-strength [objects]. Also, with SLS, you cannot create closed pores; there has to be a means to remove any un-sintered powder from that structure.

With FDM, we have access to more materials. FDM creates higher-strength parts, and we can create some very complex structures with internal pores.

Watch the full presentation: Adding Value to Additive Manufacturing, Creative Solutions using Bioresorbable Polymers

Have you used these 3D-printing methods? Share your thoughts below.