Knowledge Center


Polymer Parts

The first 3D printing technology was stereolithography, a technique that solidifies liquid resin into solid plastic parts by curing the material with projected light. Today there are a number of other plastic 3D printing technologies including fused filament fabrication (FFF) or fused deposition modeling (FDM), material jetting, and selective laser sintering (SLS). Most companies pursuing 3D printing for production rely on processes that allow for batching many parts at once with a single build plate or chamber, such as SLS, Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), or one of the several stereolithography or digital light processing (DLP) platforms currently available. As the material portfolio for polymer 3D printing grows, so too do its applications.

Polymer 3D printing has a number of advantages for part production, chief among them the ability to manufacture plastic parts without procuring expensive, time-consuming and static injection mold tooling. The tooling-less and digital nature of the 3D printing process allows manufacturers to make parts in small quantities, to adjust designs and prototype alongside production, and even to produce variations on a single part or product with ease. Polymer 3D printing makes possible mass customization, a scenario in which the manufacturer tailors each individual product to the consumer. The video below (an episode of The Cool Parts Show) depicts how Fitz Frames applies SLS to produce glasses frames customized to the face of every customer.

While many plastics manufacturers choose to add 3D printing as a complement to existing injection molding capacity, the technology is also bringing production to places and businesses that would not previously have made their own parts. Startups like Fitz Frames are one example, but even established manufacturing companies have made the pivot. “What a Former Moldmaker Has Learned About AM” features one such manufacturer, previously a moldmaker, who has reconfigured his business to focus on the direct production of parts via Multi Jet Fusion.

What A Former Moldmaker Has Learned About AM

The once-again independent Linear AMS is now more focused on additive manufacturing than ever before.



3D Printed Custom Glasses Solve Supply Chain and Manufacturing Issues

The ordering process for glasses is too long and complicated. Options are limited. Frames don’t always fit. Complete pairs are too expensive. And kids outgrow them too quickly.

Fitz Frames is establishing a better model, one where parents and kids can order better glasses in an easier way. An augmented reality iPhone app makes it possible to try on styles and colors virtually, and then order frames of exactly the right size. Fitz Frames 3D prints each pair to order at its Youngstown, Ohio, facility.

Advantages of Polymer 3D Printing

A benefit of powder bed-based systems is the ability to pack many parts into the same build chamber. The digital nature of 3D printing also makes it possible to make many different or custom parts at once, such as these insoles made on the HP Multi Jet Fusion platform.

Automated Cell

Fused filament fabrication (FFF) or fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers like these Markforged Mark 2 systems can be used in production as well, but often take the form of a “printer farm” or automated cell as seen here.


Metal Parts

The most common 3D printing technologies for metal parts additive manufacturing are wire or powder deposition, powder bed fusion, and binder jetting.

Design Issues

Two common design strategies used in conjunction with 3D printing are topology optimization and generative design.

Build Preparation and Parameters

Many additive manufacturers rely on build simulation to check parameters and identify errors before they happen.