Technologies at Terrapin Works

3D Printing , or additive manufacturing, is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down and solidifying successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced cross-section of the object. With 3D printing, you can create nearly any part you want, one layer at a time.

Machining, or subtractive manufacturing, is the process of removing material from a workpiece using power-driven machine tools to shape it into an intended design. This includes both manual machining and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining. Most metal components, plastics, and rubbers are commonly fabricated through machining processes.

Scanning, specifically 3D scanning, involves projecting lights or lasers across the surface of a part and using cameras/sensors to reconstruct its shape digitally. Scanning can be used for measurement, prototyping, manufacturing, and many other use cases.

3D Printing Technologies


Fused Deposition Modeling, or FDM, works by feeding a spool of plastic filament through a heated nozzle. The nozzle’s position is controlled by the printer to extrude material onto previous layers, slowly building up your 3D part one layer at a time. The molten plastic cools and solidifies as it is extruded, forming each layer. Pros -Inexpensive and efficient, thousands of compatible filaments. Cons - Not as accurate as other methods, detail can be lacking, and needs many supports.

View our selection of FDM printers


Stereolithography, or SLA, uses mirrors to beam a laser across a pool of resin, solidifying it and curing it into a solid piece. The printer controls the position of the laser, and as layers are solidified, the part is slowly pulled out of the resin pool. Pros - high quality models, strong build, prints very fast. Cons - resin can be unwieldy to use; complete prints must be washed, cured, and dried.

View our selection of SLA printers


Selective Laser Sintering, or SLS, starts with a bin of polymer powder heated past its melting point. A layer of powder is deposited over the build platform, and a laser beam fuses it together. Once the layer solidifies, the build platform is lowered, and another layer of powder is deposited over it. This is repeated until the part is complete. Pros - Very fast, strong builds, and no support structure needed. Cons - Prone to shrinkage and warping, messy to deal with cleaning.

View our selection of SLS printers


PolyJet printing is similar to a typical inkjet printer, but uses layers of ink built upon one another to create solid parts. Hundreds of tiny droplets of photopolymer are dropped over a surface and then cured by an ultraviolet light. Material jetting is very efficient, since multiple parts can be fabricated by just one pass of the ink head. Pros - Very fast, and very high quality model detail, allows for multiple materials and multicolor printing. Cons - Requires support and sometimes prone to warping, relatively expensive.

View our selection of PolyJet printers


Direct Metal Laser Sintering, or DMLS, is similar to SLS printing. Instead of polymer powder, metal powder is used. The powder is heated, then fused together at the molecular level with a laser beam. DMLS can print parts made of aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, nickel alloy, and many other metals. Pros - Works with nearly any metal alloy, can print geometry that is impossible to cast conventionally. Cons - Slow and expensive, often requires post-processing.

View our selection of DMLS printers

Machining Technologies

CNC Milling

Computer Numerical Control, or CNC, is programmed code that represents instructions for precise movements to be carried out by machines. Indirectly, this code defines how to automatically create, produce, or transform a virtual object into a real one. A CNC Mill transforms raw material into a finished model through removing material precisely through computer control, resulting in a carved-out part. Pros - Much easier to machine wood and metal subtractively than to print it, relatively inexpensive. Cons - Some shapes are too complex to be milled, can be slow at times.

View our selection of CNC mills

Laser Cutting

Laser Cutting uses a high-power laser which is directed through optics and computer numerical control (CNC) to direct the beam or material. Typically, the process uses a motion control system to follow a CNC or G-code of the pattern that is to be cut onto the material. Laser cutting is typically used to cut sheets of wood, metal, or plastic into 2D parts, and laser-cut parts can often be cut with easily-assemblable joints that require minimal hardware or adhesive. Pros - can cut nearly any material inexpensively and quick, parts can be cut to join without hardware. Cons - Limited to 2D designs.

View our selection of Laser Cutters

Waterjet Cutting

Waterjet Cutting uses a high-pressure stream of water to cut, similarly to laser cutting. Its jet is also controlled by CNC. Pros - Can cut nearly any material, inexpensive since no heat or chemicals involved. Cons - Small holes and corners can be difficult to cut due to water jet diameter.

View our selection of waterjet cutters

Manual Machining

Manual Machining involves using non-computerized power tools to machine raw material into parts. Pros - Very inexpensive, easy to use. Cons - Lacks precision and prone to human error.

View our selection of manual machines

Scanning Technologies

Structured Light Scanning

Structured Light Scanning works by projecting a narrow band of light onto a three-dimensionally shaped surface. The projector produces a line of light that appears distorted from other perspectives. A set of cameras can compute and digitally reconstruct the contours of the light, producing a 3D scan via software. Pros - Most comprehensive way to measure lengths on a part, useful when object is difficult to remove in an assembly. Cons - Intricately-detailed geometry does not always get fully scanned.

View our selection of 3D Scanners