A Breakdown of 3 Exotic 3D Printing Techniques: Material Jetting, Binder Jetting, and Powder Bed Fusion

by | Oct 17, 2020

“Prosumer” 3D printing has been growing by storm over the last several years. With the falling prices of 3D printers, makers and small businesses can afford to have their own 3D printers. While the democratization of 3D printing is exciting, the newest 3D printing technologies that are coming of age are equally energizing.

This article explores some of the exotic 3D printing technologies that are available in the market today. These technologies are still nascent, as such they are expensive and you are unlikely to find them among the arsenal of your local 3D printing enthusiast. Nevertheless, as the technology continues to mature, the capabilities from these exotic (by our modern definition) 3D printing technology has the potential to be absolutely game-changing.

Material Jetting

Material jetting is a process where droplets of photopolymers are deposited onto a surface and then cured by UV light. The mechanics of material jetting are similar to standard SLA printing. However, the difference comes down to the properties of the photopolymers used in material jetting. These photopolymers can be deposited in extremely small droplets of 16um (and note that 16um is their worst dimension! They are 4um in their other 2 dimensions). Additionally, photopolymers can be deposited in different colors, allowing for multicolored prints. Material jet prints look absolutely fantastic!

  • Best resolution and surface finish of any 3D printing technology
  • Isotropic properties
  • Multi-material & full-color prints
  • Easy clean-up after print
  • Very expensive
  • Materials are plastic simulates and are not that strong

Binder Jetting

Binder jetting is a process where a liquid binder is deposited onto a powder surface. The liquid and powder bond to form a thin layer. Then, layer-upon-layer, the 3D printed part is created. Here the unique part of binder jetting comes into play. The part is post-processed by burning out the binder and then infiltrating metals into the exposed burnt voids. Binder jetting results in a layer resolution of approximately 50um. Binder jetting is the only metal 3D printing process that does not require supports printed into the sample, which is also an advantage.

  • Most economical of 3D metal printing options
  • Does not require supports
  • Imperfect mechanical properties
  • Limited material options
  • Requires post-processing metal sintering process

Powder Bed Fusion

Powder bed fusion is a process where a high-powered laser melts metal powder into layers. There are a number of types of powder bed fusion - Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Electron Beam Melting (EBM), and Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM) - that all rely on this mechanism. In contrast to binder jetting, powder bed fusion does require supports printed into the sample. However, powder bed fusion can be used with many more types of metals: aluminum, stainless steel, tool steel, titanium, cobalt-chrome, inconel, among others.

  • Many metal and alloy options
  • Great material properties
  • Very expensive
  • Requires supports for the sample


It will be fascinating to watch these exotic 3D printing technologies over the coming years. As their prices fall and they become more accessible to a larger audience, the innovations enabled will certainly be something to behold.

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