Selecting a process by material
3D printing materials usually come in filament, powder or resin form (depending on the 3D printing processes used). Polymers (plastics) and metals are the two main 3D printing material groups, while other materials (such as ceramics or composites) are also available. Polymers can be broken down further into thermoplastics and thermosets.
Selecting a process by use-case
It is important to determine early in the selection process whether the main design consideration is function or visual appearance. This will help greatly in choosing the most suitable process.
As a rule of thumb, thermoplastic polymer parts are better suited for functional applications while thermosets are best suited for visual appearance.
Selecting a process by manufacturing capabilities
When the model design is already finalized, the capabilities of each 3D printing technology will often play the main role in the process selection.
It is important to have an overview of the fundamental mechanics of each process to fully understand their key benefits and limitations.