In recent years, 3D printers have fallen enormously in price. Where it was not too long ago a bargain to buy a 3D printer for less than a thousand euros on the head, it is now possible to buy something in the neighborhood of the hundred euros. The use of a thin wire of plastic that melts and solidifies again is a trick that many manufacturers have mastered.
However, if you print with PLA you stay a bit of a cheap looking piece of plastic printing, with ridges and lines where each layer is laid down. Of course it is possible with most printers with abs to print and if your prints without much distortion succeeded, you can then abs smooth with acetone, but it remains a bit laborious.
Now fdm -prints, like almost all 3D printers use, not the only way to create a 3d object. You can also 3D-print with laser sintering, where small particles of polymer or even metal are fused together. A step further is the actual melting of metals, where even more powerful lasers are used. Laser sintering or melting is still very expensive and reserved for business and commercial applications, but that was 3d printing with plastic in the past as well.
Another technique to make 3d prints, which until recently was very pricey, but strong in price has decreased, is the use of stereolithography. In this process a resin is used as starting material. This resin is light-sensitive and hardens under the influence of UV light. This can be done with sla – or dlp -technique, which resemble each other, but work with respectively a moving and a stationary light source. That technique was very expensive, but the Chinese manufacturer Wanhao has been running the Duplicator 7 on the market for about a year. The printer does not cost as much as five hundred euros, but can print extremely fine details. We took home the now-fifth iteration of the device to see how this fdm alternative works. The D7 has a building volume of 70 by 120 by 200 millimeters and comes with a small bottle of resin.