What Exactly is 3D Printing Process? What are Different Powder-Based 3D Printing Techniques?

If you think that 3D printing technology is similar to traditional printing process inclusive of manufacturing, designing and assembling, then you can’t be far away from what exactly this technology is.

The 3D printing world is different, and therefore the process used for producing 3D prints is also different.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing. In precise, the 3D printers put layers of print materials, add these together, to get the end object created or printed. A software or tool separate the 2D layers and then prints those, bonds these to create the 3D object.

So, in definition 3D printers create 3D products by creating layer after layer in 2D (of a range of layers) and then bonding them.

Powder Based 3D Printing

3D printing or additive manufacturing powder based means that it uses materials in powder-form to create the layers. These shapeless powders function as inks to develop the 3D product. At first the person working on the 3D print deposits a fine layer of the material powder. Then a cross-selection is defined based on the 3D product design. A laser exposure is applied which melts the particles and then sinters them together to create the final layer.

Now, another layer is deposited over the formed layer. This deposition of layer after layer continues until the final 3D model is created.

Types of Powder Printing in 3D

There are two categories of powder-based printing: metal and plastic based.

  1. Metal-Based Powder Printing

Here, the metal based powders are sintered or fused together using a high-energy beam to process the binding. This method of printing can be applied to almost all types of industrial metals including copper, stainless steel, cobalt, aluminum, chrome, nickel allow, and more.

However, with respect to the metal chosen for powder based printing, the technique or method applied can vary. Thereby, for metal based powder printing, four different technologies are used:

  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

This is the most basic and makes use of a concentrated laser beam for melting the powder. Speed and intensity can be varied specific to metal type, to achieve complex geometrics after fusing process of the metal powders.

  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

It is similar to SLM, but the only difference is that in SLM complete melting and fusion of metal powder is done while in DMLS the particles are heated to a point where only their surfaces weld together.

  • Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

As the name suggests, this process makes use of electron beam to melt the powder. This is an energy-intensive process as the electron beam can disperse to several points on a particular layer. This makes it fast as compared to DMLS and SLM.

  • Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF)

This one is quite different from the above methods. Ultra-fine nozzles arrays are used to inject a liquid binding agent on powder bed, at selected areas. It is the youngest technology in metal powder 3D printing.

  • Plastic Based Powder Printing

It is one of the most versatile and a wide range of plastic materials can me developed into powder form like polystyrene, silicates which aren’t accessible in filament form. It requires muss lesser energy to melt as compared to metal based powder printing.

  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

The SLS method in plastic based powder printing plastic is melt using a CO2 laser. By changing the speed and intensity of the laser, different kinds of plastic materials can be applied upon.


3D printing, powder based provides benefits including isotropic mechanical properties, complex geometries printing, and is economical for small volumes of projects.

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