With the advent of 3D printer and 3D printing technology, creating one’s own parts and producing them have become reality. Instead of making molds and producing limited number of parts at a time, 3D printing technology has revolutionized creating an unlimited number of parts in a single production run.
In the Beginning
3D printing began in the 1980s when engineers started using it to create prototype parts. It was a slow, expensive process that required specialized knowledge.
Companies began adopting the technology more widely in the late 2000s, and its use has spread rapidly since then.
The technology is now used to produce everything from medical implants to engine components.
How It Works
3D printing is a digital technology that starts with a digital model on a computer (usually created using CAD software or scanned with a 3D scanner). The model is sliced by a piece of software into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers based on the printer’s resolution. Each slice is converted into machine language (G-code) for the printer to read. The printer then prints each layer onto the build platform, one at a time, from bottom to top.
There are several different types of 3D printers, but they all work by following these basic steps.
The material used by the 3D printer depends on the type of 3D printing technology being utilized. Popular options include:
-Plastics. Most commonly PLA and ABS plastic, but there are many others available as well (such as flexible filament).
-Metals. Some printers can print in solid steel, titanium, and other metals. These printers use metal powder that is heated to near melting.
-Ceramics. Some printers can print in ceramics such as porcelain and bone china! These printers either use ceramic powder that is heated or liquid clay that hardens after it is put down.
Types of Techniques
Several different techniques are used to make 3D printed objects. These techniques vary in the way layers are built to create parts. Each technique has its own advantages, especially in the materials that can be used with it.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
FDM uses a spool of filament made of plastic or metal wire, which is unwound and supplied with material to an extrusion nozzle, similar to a hot glue gun. The object is produced by extruding melted material to form layers as the material hardens after deposition.
SLA uses a vat of liquid ultraviolet curable photopolymer “resin” and an ultraviolet laser to build the object’s layers one at a time. For each layer, the laser beam traces a cross-section of the part pattern on the surface of the liquid resin. Exposure to the ultraviolet laser light cures and solidifies the pattern traced on the resin and joins it to the layer below.
Thermoplastics—The Most Common 3D Printing Material
Materials used in 3D printing
If you’re new to 3D printing and still trying to figure out how it works, then this guide is for you. We’ll explain the most common types of printers, the different processes they use, and the materials they can print with.
3D printing technologies
There are a large number of 3D printing technologies available today, but most of them can be separated into one of seven categories: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), Digital Light Processing (DLP), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Electron Beam Melting (EBM) and Binder Jetting.
What’s It Good For?
Well, just about anything you can imagine. The applications for 3D printing are virtually limitless. In manufacturing alone there are countless possibilities for this new technology:
- Rapid prototyping
- Mold making and tooling
- Low-volume production runs
The Future of 3D Printing
Since the introduction of the first 3D printer in the mid-1980s, 3D printing has been viewed as an exciting and revolutionary technology that will change the world. While growth has been slower than expected, there are still those who believe in its potential to transform manufacturing and society at large. It is frequently hailed as the next industrial revolution, with many believing that 3D printers will become as ubiquitous as microwaves or personal computers.
3D printing is already present in many industries — from engineering and architecture to art and education — but it has yet to find a home in the mass market. However, there are those who believe that 3D printers could one day be used in almost every household.
3D printing has many potential applications across different industries. In medicine, for example, it can be used to create customized prosthetics or organs. In education, it can be used to teach students about geometry and spatial relations. The possibilities are endless.
There are few so many applications for this technology already.
One thing is for certain—3D printing is here to stay. It’s changing the way people think about the production process, where they can manufacture companies and individuals alike would never have imagined, and it’s removing geographic barriers and other limitations previously associated with mass production.