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3D Printing Services & Technologies

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3D Printing Services & Technologies

Since its inception during the late 1980s, additive technologies have transformed the way products are prototyped. Software and hardware have come a long way in the past decades. Prototyping by way of additive technologies continues to be one of the fastest and most cost-effective methods. While prototyping and additive technologies are ever-changing, so is the means of production. Today, the term additive manufacturing (AM) is more commonly utilized further downstream in the production phases of product development.

What is 3D Printing Additive Manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing (AM) constructs 3D models by layering materials. The object is made by following specifications laid out by a CAD design or digital 3D model. AM may use a number of materials from polymers, metals, glass, ceramics, foams, gels and more. Additive manufacturing applications include industrial tooling, customized products, production parts, a visualization tool in design and more.

There are numerous processes used by additive manufacturing technologies. These include:

  • Vat polymerization: the part is made layer by layer in a liquid resin photopolymer vat. Ultraviolet (UV) light cures the resin while a platform moves downward after each layer has hardened.
  • Sheet lamination: thin sheets are bonded together in layers to form a single part.
  • Powder bed fusion: ultra-fine layers of powder are laid onto a build platform and then bonded by lasers, electron beams, or thermal print heads. Powder bed fusion is used by some AM technologies, including direct metal laser sintering, selective laser sintering, selective heat sintering, direct metal laser melting and electron beam melting.
  • Material jetting: a print head moves along x, y and z axes to distribute photosensitive material cured by a UV light. The part is built layer by layer.
  • Binder jetting: used for metal, sand and ceramic in powder/granule form. A binder is deposited onto a powder bed, bonding layers one at a time.
  • Directed energy deposition: a laser mounted to a 4 or 5 axes arm melts filament feedstock or powder.
  • Material extrusion: a heated nozzle distributes a spool of the thermoplastic polymer in a continuous stream, depositing the material layer by layer to build a part.

Additive Manufacturing Benefits

If you are searching for an economical solution for your project, AM can be the right choice. Rather than assembling your product from multiple components or using multiple machines and processes, creating a product may be as simple as a good design, material and a single device. This also results in a lighter weight product. By selecting additive manufacturing, your product can make it to market at a rapid pace. Functional integration and adaptations can be directly designed into the product, reducing the number of development cycles and allowing a product to be produced quickly at a reduced cost.

  • Simple manufacturing free of complicated processes or materials
  • Quick to market product development
  • Lightweight parts
  • Create custom and complex geometries
  • Visual and functional prototypes
  • Lower cost compared to traditional manufacturing

Same Day & Next Day 3D Printing

Go from design to a physical part in as little as one day using Fathoms additive manufacturing services. If you have a deadline that needs to be met today, Fathom offers PolyJet printing for same-day pickup or shipment. Need it tomorrow? Fathom’s Next-Day 3D services include FDM technology, PolyJet and SLA. Both FDM, PolyJet and SLA are perfect for projects that require high resolution and excellent surface finish with the durability of engineering-grade thermoplastics. At Fathom, we understand the importance of deadlines and are ready to help you cross that project off your list. Learn more about our same day and next day services.

Large Prototypes

Demonstrate and test your design by using a large prototype made by Fathom. A large prototype allows you to discover any design issues early in the product development process before investing time and money for large-scale production. Need customer feedback? Present your large prototype to clients to learn if your product is user-friendly and gather valuable customer satisfaction data. Large prototypes may also be used as a visual model for investors, helping you gain capital for production. Your team will also gain valuable insight into the manufacturing process and determine which method is the best fit while estimating production costs. Learn more about large prototypes.

3D Printing vs. Injection Molding

3D printing and injection molding are significantly different manufacturing processes. 3D printing is an additive manufacturing method in which parts are built layer upon layer until a product is created. 3D printing is a good fit for projects that require a lower volume of products, complex and intricate designs and any project that may require quick changes early in the product development cycle. Injection molding utilizes a mold into which molten material is injected. Once the material has cooled, the part is removed from the mold. Injection molding is perfect for large volumes, components that are not complex or delicate and parts that require enhanced strength. Learn more about 3D Printing vs. Injection Molding

3D Printing Quotes

Use Fathom’s online SmartQuote platform to receive your instant 3D printing quote. Fathom is used by 9 out of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies because we can tackle projects of different levels of complexity, technology option, or project size. Getting a quote is a simple, three step process. First, upload your file to the instant online quote tool. Next, select the metrics, process, materials, finishes and quantity. Finally, review your quote and make any modifications as needed. Fathom offers expedited services in same-day, next-day, two-day and three-day or more options. Additive manufacturing technologies include PolyJet, fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), multi-jet fusion (MJF) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). Learn more about getting a 3D printing quote.

Low Volume Production

Fathom offers multiple low-volume manufacturing methods, creating high-quality parts with precision and an excellent finish. Our team is ready to help you get precisely what you need when it is needed. Traditional manufacturing methods may experience longer lead times and higher material costs than additive manufacturing, which is why many companies take a hybridized approach to their production. Fathom’s manufacturing technologies are the perfect solution for bridge or low to medium volume production runs. Services include injection molding, CNC machining and 3D printing/additive manufacturing. For projects that require a lower volume, Fathom is faster, flexible and more economical than the competition. Learn more about low volume production.

Rapid Prototypes

Rapid prototyping is the process of creating a physical part from a CAD design. The resulting rapid prototype can test a product design’s functionality or efficiency before the part is reproduced in larger volumes. Additive manufacturing methods allow companies to create a rapid prototype quickly. The benefits of rapid prototyping include the ability to gather valuable feedback from clients and investors, receive funding, make quick changes early in the product development cycle while reducing waste, saving time and effectively communicating a concept. Rapid prototypes may also be used to test fit, size and overall appearance.

3D Printing Materials

Polymers, metals and ceramics are the primary types of materials used for additive manufacturing/3D printing. Additional materials may include different types of paper, food, or polymer adhesive sheets. Common polymers for 3D printing include acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polycarbonate (PC). Polymers can be combined to create a range of other materials that have different structural and aesthetic properties. Metals include steel, titanium, aluminum and cobalt chrome alloy. Ceramic materials are porcelain, silicone-carbide and silica/glass. The proper material must be matched to the appropriate additive manufacturing technology. No matter which material or additive technology you choose, you can expect a high-quality part from Fathom. Learn more about 3D printing materials.

3D Printing Services Available

To help you make an informed decision on which AM method is best for your business, we will explore six different AM processes available, including PolyJet, Stereolithography, Fused Deposition Modeling, MultiJet Fusion, Selective Laser Sintering and Direct Metal Laser Sintering. All of these processes are offered by Fathom and have different capabilities and limitations.

PolyJet (PJ) 3D Printing

What is Poly Jet? PolyJet (PJ) technology is a 3D printing process that can achieve smooth surfaces, thin walls and complex geometries with accuracy as high as 0.1mm. It is the only technology that supports a wide range of materials with properties that range from rubber to rigid, transparent to opaque. PolyJet is commonly used for prototyping and is best for projects where accuracy, finish and detail are required.

How does a PolyJet printer work? The PolyJet printer operates like an inkjet printer, but instead of using drops of ink, the printer extrudes photopolymers that solidify or cure under UV light. Layers are built on a build tray until the part is made. When an intricate design is desired, the 3D printer uses a gel-like support material that enables complex geometries. The gel is removed by soaking or water jetting.

Is PolyJet an SLA? While both PolyJet and SLA use a resin cured by UV light, some notable differences are observed. First, there is no need for a resin bath like in SLA. Second, PJ printers utilize a gel material for the support that can be washed away, whereas SLA printers use break-away support materials. Lastly, PJ printers produce parts with no liquid resin residue, which means there is no need to wash the post-production piece.

PolyJet Advantages

  • Produce intricate designs, complex details and delicate/precise features
  • Utilize a variety of colors and materials into one model for increased efficiency
  • Make accurate jigs, fixtures, molds and other tools
  • Create detailed and smooth prototypes that simulate the end product
  • Experience rapid build times
  • Good tensile strength
  • Wide range of materials

PolyJet Applications

  • Medical: organ replicas, prosthetic limbs, joint replacements
  • Dental: crowns, bridges and other orthodontics
  • Consumer goods: rapid prototyping, injection modeling, functional prototyping

Learn more about PJ 3D printing.

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D Printing

What is the stereolithography process? This technology is ideal for high-resolution finishes regarding medium- to large-sized parts. While there are fewer materials to choose from versus PolyJet, it is an extremely cost-effective solution for creating durable, aesthetically pleasing parts of considerable size on a tight deadline. SLA is designed for parts that only require one material. Every component of the part must be made from a single material.

How does an SLA printer work? SLA uses a bath of resin and UV laser beams to create parts. The laser traces a shape dictated by the original file across the surface of the resin bath. The resin touched by the laser hardens, then the build platform descends in the resin bath and the process is repeated until the entire part is complete. A chemical bath may be used to clean the piece. Once the part has been cleaned, it is ready to use.

What is the difference between stereolithography and 3D printing? Stereolithography is a methodology of 3D printing. It is one of the earliest used methods of 3D printing technology. Chuck Hull patented SLA in 1984 as a process to create 3D objects by using thin layers and then curing using UV light.

Stereolithography Advantages

  • Great for high-res finishes for medium to large-sized parts
  • Minimal variances between the plan and the actual part , making this a viable option for fit tests
  • Accurate and durable parts
  • Rapid production
  • Strong enough to be machined and can be used as patterns for injection molding

Stereolithography Applications

  • Medical: create 3D models of anatomy, aid for diagnosis, preoperative planning, implant design

Learn more about SLA 3D printing.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

What is FDM? Fused Deposition Modeling technology is an ideal fabrication method for all kinds of applications because of its wide range of engineering-grade thermoplastics—from concept models, functional prototypes and end-use parts such as final goods and manufacturing aides (e.g., jigs and fixtures).

How does an FDM 3D printer work? FDM is a filament-based additive technology distributed by a moving print head that extrudes a heated thermoplastic material in a pattern layer by layer onto a build platform. This technology includes the use of support material to create supportive structures removed by force or solution. During printing, the support and molding material takes the form of filaments or threads which are fed through a nozzle. The filament is then extruded onto the build platform. Both the nozzle and base are controlled by a computer following a CAD design. Production time depends on the size of the object being produced; the smaller the object, the quicker it will be made.

What materials are used in Fused Deposition Modeling? The most common material used for FDM is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Other materials used in FDM include thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer (TPU), Antero™ 800NA (polyetherketoneketone), ULTEM™ 1010 resin (polyetherimide), ULTEM 9085 resin (polyetherimide) and other thermoplastics.

Fused Deposition Modeling Advantages

  • Greater design freedom
  • Faster lead times
  • Quick post-processing without using an organic solvent

Fused Deposition Modeling Applications

  • Production parts
  • Jigs and fixtures
  • Functional prototypes
  • Food and drug packaging
  • And other applications that require tight tolerances, toughness and environmental stability

Learn more about FDM 3D printing.

Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D Printing

What is Multi Jet Fusion? A relatively new technology, Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), builds parts by layers. A thin layer of powder is placed repeatedly onto a print bed. The inkjet array inside the print carriage makes a sweeping motion over the print bed, releasing two agents downward; a fusing agent and a detailing agent. The fusing agent fuses the powder together. The detailing agent is used to reduce fusing at the part boundary in order to achieve greater detail.

Multi Jet Fusion is perfect for projects that require a higher density, smooth surface and low porosity. With little need for post-production finishing, lead times are much shorter.

What is Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing? This technology is quickly becoming a popular choice for 3D printing prototypes and production parts. Ideal uses for MJF are enclosures, electronics housings, complex ducts, lattice structures and functional assemblies. The technology is capable of 3D printing parts with high detail, as well as suitable for applications that require durability (e.g., snap fits). It is common for designers and engineers to choose this material for short production runs because the MJF process allows for nesting in the z-direction. Offering this technology further expands Fathoms already comprehensive 3D printing and additive manufacturing services

The material currently available for MJF is Nylon 12 (PA 12), a highly durable thermoplastic that is ideal for functional prototyping and low-volume production runs. Nylon 12 allows for smooth surfaces with fine details and strength. It has excellent resistance to oils, grease, aliphatic hydrocarbons and alkalis. The resulting part is a non-uniform light gray that can be dyed a darker color.

Multi Jet Fusion Advantages

  • Great for projects that require high detail
  • Complex parts
  • Faster turnaround times
  • Smooth surfaces
  • Minimal need for post-production finishing
  • Durable production quality
  • Improved performance
  • Low costs

Multi Jet Fusion Applications

  • Enclosures
  • Electronics housings
  • Complex ducts
  • Wiring clips
  • Guides
  • Grommets
  • Lattice structures
  • Functional assemblies
  • Prototypes used for fit, form and function tests
  • Complex end-use parts

Learn more about MJF 3D printing.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D Printing

What is Selective Laser Sintering? SLS technology is commonly used to create models, prototypes and end-use parts in durable, engineering-grade thermoplastics. Especially great for larger quantities of parts. Consider SLS for applications that involve high-complexity and organic geometries, as well as parts requiring durability.

How does Selective Laser Sintering work? SLS uses a blade to spread a thin layer of powder over the build volume. A laser sinters the cross-section of the part, fusing the powder together. The z stage then drops one layer and the process begins again until the build is finished. Parts are then excavated from the build powder-cake and bead blasted. The unused powder in the build envelope acts as the support structures, so no support removal is necessary.

What is Selective Laser Sintering used for? Selective Laser Sintering has many advantages for designers and engineers. Common uses of SLS include functional prototypes, concept models, consumer products, architectural models, electronics housings, medical devices, sculptures, jigs, fixtures and more.

Selective Laser Sintering Advantages

  • Does not require support structures
  • Great for intricate and complex geometries
  • Fast turnaround
  • Strong layer adhesion
  • Can be dyed

Selective Laser Sintering Applications<H4>

  • Functional prototypes
  • Concept models
  • Electronics housings
  • Medical devices
  • Jigs and fixtures

Learn more about SLS 3D printing.

DMLS 3D Printing 

Streamline your manufacturing with precision metal prototypes and low-volume metal production parts that would be impractical or cost-prohibitive to machine. We create metal parts using a fiber laser fired onto a metal plate, repeatedly adding layers of powdered metal and fusing them to previous layers. Although the resulting part is accurate with excellent surface quality and mechanical properties, additional post-processing is also available.

Metal 3D printing, also known as direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) and direct metal laser melting (DMLM) is an additive layer technology. A metal 3D printer utilizes a laser beam to melt 20-60 micron layers of metal powder on top of each other. Powdered metal is spread across the entire build platform and selectively melted to previous layers. This additive process allows metal parts to be grown out of a bed of powdered metal. The process is like other polymer-based 3D printers that use powder bed fusion.

DMLS Advantages

  • Precision
  • High-quality
  • Low-volume
  • Strength

DMLS Applications

  • Functional prototypes
  • Spare parts
  • Biomedical implants
  • Tooling

Other 3D Printing Services References & Information

Check out these other 3D printing services references, information and articles:

Learn about 3D Printing Services at Fathom

Quickly get a quote in as soon as one hour on any 3D printing project today with our SmartQuote platform.

Core Capabilities 3D Printing & Additive Manufacturing, CNC Machining, Urethane Casting, Tooling & Injection Molding, Finishing & Assembly
Additive Technologies Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), PolyJet (PJ), Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
Engineering & Design Fathom’s Team of Designers & Engineers Who Can Support a Company’s In-House Product Development Team Throughout Prototyping and Production Phases
Managed Services Fathom’s Part-Time & Full-Time Staffing Solutions That Enhance Your In-House Fabrication—Fathom Experts Operate Equipment, Manage Work Orders and Much More
Additional Services Training Programs Include Design for Additive Manufacturing (DFAM) + Traditional Manufacturing Processes (e.g. Injection Molding, CNC Machining, etc.)
+ Consultation, DFM/DFAM Guidance, Technology & Material Evaluation, Research & Development, etc.

Comprehensive Capabilities for Rapid Manufacturing

At Fathom we offer a unique advantage of speed and agility-our experts help companies go from concept to prototype to manufacturing in ways not previously possible. 

3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing
90+ Machines  
SLS / / Two-day  SLA / / Next-day 
FDM / / Next-day DMLS / / Three-day 
PolyJet / / Same-day MJF / / Two-day
Injection Molding

30 Second Quotes

Prototype Tool / / As soon as 10 days

10K Parts / / 10 days

Production Tool / / As soon as 3 weeks

CNC Machining

3 & 5 Axis Milling & Turning
(Plastics, Composites and Metals)

Tolerance Accuracy Range
from +/-0.001″ to 0.005″

Urethane Casting

Injection Molding Adjacent
without High Costs of Metal Tools

Most Commonly Used for High-Volume
Prototyping & Bridge to Production

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Fathom is driven by advanced technologies and methods that enhance and accelerate today’s product development and production processes.