Today, Technology has so advanced that we can easily create a physical object irrespective of how large it is from a digital design. This is made possible by 3-dimensional printing popularly known as 3D printing. 2D is common unlike 3D. Therefore, here in this article, we will provide answers to different information regarding what is 3D printing, how are the people doing 3D printing and other relevant information about 3D printing.
3D Printing works majorly by laying down thin layers of material such as metal or cement, liquid or powdered plastic, and then combining the layers.
We can’t talk about what is 3D Printing without mentioning the inventor’s name, Charles Hull. Charles Hull is known to be the inventor of stereolithography, which was the first commercial rapid prototyping technology well-known as 3D printing.
Many years ago, the earliest apps were found in the research and development labs and tool rooms, but Technology has advanced to what we have today since 3D printing applications or Stereolithography are unending.
What is 3D Printing?
Initially, the term “3D printing” refers to a process that places a binder material onto a powder bed with inkjet printer heads layer by layer at a time. However, as technology became more advanced what is 3D printing also changed and can be defined as a process in which a digital file is used to make 3-dimensional solid objects via an addictive manufacturing process.
During the 3D printing process, successive layers of material are laid down by the 3D printer until after the object creation has been completed.
Contrary to traditional subtractive processes, 3D printing is an additive process whereby it takes a solid object and then shapes or reduces it into the perfect design.
An additive process involves an object which is being created by laying down sequential layers of material until the object is created. Whereby each of these layers is seen as a thinly sliced cross-section of the object.
3D printing is known to be the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which means cutting or hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with a milling machine. Now, you know what is 3D Printing.
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How does 3D Printing Work?
Over the years, 3D printing has evolved significantly and can now perform important roles in many applications, with the most common applications such as architecture, custom art, and design, manufacturing, medicine, and these can vary from fully functional to purely aesthetic apps.
It all begins with a 3D model. You can decide to create one from the ground up or simply download it from a 3D library. 3D printing is involved three steps which include:
- The first step entails designing the object model in a CAD package.
- The second step involves building the object with a 3D printer.
- Lastly, the third step consists of finishing where the final touches are made.
Some of the different types of physical transformations used in 3D printing are continuous liquid interface production, light polymerization, melt extrusion, and sintering.
Ensure that you have a printable file, afterwards, you can proceed to the next step to prepare it for your 3D printer which is called slicing. Slicing can be defined as slicing up a 3D model into hundreds or thousands of layers and this is done using slicing software.
Once your file has been sliced, then it means it’s ready for your 3D printer. Exporting the file to your printer can be done via USB, SD, or Wi-Fi. Then, your sliced file is ready to be 3D printed layer by layer.
3D Printing an object takes an average of 30 minutes up to 12 hours to print. At times, it can even take several days depending on how large or detailed your 3D model is.
Functions of 3D Printing
Once you know what is 3D printing, the next thing you should know is its functions. Over the years, 3D printing has had an outstanding impact across the medical industry, from producing custom prosthetic legs for a marathon runner to creating a human heart model to aid surgeons and also making a new tail for an alligator that got its tail bitten off as a baby.
Initially in the 1990s, 3D Printing was used for medical purposes such as dental implants and custom prosthetics. Eventually, scientists were able to successfully grow organs from patients’ cells using a 3D-printed scaffold to support them.
Other amazing functions of 3D printing include:
- Making small plastic objects.
- Printing architectural models.
- Printing educational materials.
- Printing food items.
- Printing metal as well as plastic parts.
- Printing medical implants and prosthetic body parts, isn’t this amazing?
3D printing also allows you to produce complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
Types of 3D Printing
Although there are several printers available, only 9 basic types of 3D printing technology exist presently, namely;
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).
- Stereolithography (SLA).
- Digital Light Processing (DLP).
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).
- Selective Laser Melting (SLM).
- Electron Beam Melting (EMB).
- Laminated Object.
However, the 3 common types of 3D printers on the market are Stereolithography (SLA), and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). Both 3D printing technologies have been changed and processed for the desktop, making them to be more affordable, easier to use, and more capable.
Fused deposition modelling (FDM) is also known as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) which is the most widely used type of 3D printing at the consumer level and is also considered the best.
Materials used in 3D Printing
In case you wondering about the type of materials 3D printing accepts, here it is! The most common FDM 3D printing materials are ABS, PLA, and their different blends.
However, more advanced FDM printers can as well print with other specialized materials that provide properties such as higher heat resistance, impact resistance, chemical resistance, and rigidity. Such materials include the following:
- Plastic: This is the most commonly used raw material used for 3D printing today.
- Metal: The second most popular material in 3D printing is metal. It is used via a process known as direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).
- Powders: Nowadays state-of-the-art 3D printers make use of powdered materials to construct products.
- Paper: Several designs can be printed on paper with 3D technology to attain a more realistic prototype than just a flat illustration. Once there’s a design presented for approval, the 3D-printed model will allow the presenter to transfer the essence of the design with significant details and accuracy.
- Resins: This is one of the limited and less-used materials in 3D printing. When compared to other 3D-applicable materials, resin provides limited flexibility and strength.
- Nitinol: Being a common material in medical implants, nitinol is rated in the 3D printing world for its super-elasticity. Nitinol is made from a mixture of nickel and titanium, it is capable of bending to considerable degrees without breaking. Even when folded in half, the material can still be restored to its original shape. Therefore, making Nitinol is one of the strongest materials with flexible qualities. Nitinol also allows printers to make things happen that would otherwise not be possible with the production of medical products.
- Carbon Fiber: These are composites used in 3D printers as a top coat over plastic materials. The main aim is to make plastic stronger. A combination of carbon fiber over plastic has been used in the 3D printing industry as a fast and convenient alternative to metal.
- Graphite and Graphene: Graphene is a popular choice for 3D printing because of its strength and conductivity. This material is perfect for device parts that need to be flexible, such as touchscreens. For solar panels and building parts, Graphene is also ideal.
However, among all the various materials used for 3D printing, plastic is still the most common because it’s versatile and can as well be used for everything from 3D-printed household fixtures to toys. Plastic 3D printing material comes in multiple several colors and can also be transparent.
3D Printing Technologies
3D printing beset different forms of technologies and materials as 3D printing is being used in almost all industries you can ever think of. It’s vital to see it as a collection of various industries with a myriad of several applications. There are 3 broad types of 3D printing technology, namely; sintering, melting, and stereolithography.
Sintering: This is a technology where the material is heated, but not to the melting point, to create high-resolution items. SLS printing can also be defined as when a laser is used to solidify and bond grains of plastic, ceramic, glass, metal, or other materials into layers to produce a 3D object.
Melting: Laser beam melting is also an additive manufacturing process in which 3D components are digitally “cut” into 2D layers.
Stereolithography: This is regarded as the oldest additive printing technology. This form of 3D printing functions by exposing a layer of photosensitive liquid resin to a UV-laser beam. The resin hardens in the preferred pattern, and the object is built one layer at a time.
Other advanced 3D Modeling Techniques available are:
- Polygonal modeling: This is an extremely common choice, which involves creating a 3D polygonal mesh (a patchwork of polygons – triangles or other simple digital geometric figures).
- Digital Sculpting.
- Scan-based modeling.
Industries that use 3D Printing
These days, many industries make use of 3D Printing, namely;
- Aerospace: This was the first industry to embrace 3D printing and they are now regarded as a standard part of its toolkit.
- Medical devices and dentistry.
- Mechanical Engineering: Engineers can also use 3D printing to design or make prototypes of any type they desire. Although the materials for 3D printing are stronger and more resistant therefore you can print completely functional parts.
These industries are maximizing the uses of 3D Printing optimally.
How to Improve 3D Print Quality
In case you want to improve the 3D Quality end product, you can follow the steps below:
- Rearrange the bed and set the nozzle height.
- Ensure you check the nozzle’s temperature.
- Make sure you use different building plates to create different effects.
- Pay apt attention to your printer’s adjustment and maintenance.
- Carefully handle the filament.
- Make use of a slicer.
- Lower the printing speed as well.
Why is 3D Print so Important?
What is 3D Printing and why is it so important? There are several reasons why 3D Printing is so important, some of them have been highlighted below:
- With 3D Printing, it makes it possible to print complex geometric shapes and interlocking parts that need no assembly.
- You can also produce single objects, in small quantities, at low cost, and with fast delivery.
- Using 3D Printing helps in the reduction of production-related material loss.
- Modern 3D modeling offers a level of design depth that rough sketches or 2D designs can’t do, such as improved control over details.
- It also allows engineers to explore the physical aspects of a design without giving up on physical limitations.
- Flexible Design: 3D printing permits the design and printing of more complex designs than traditional manufacturing processes.
- Rapid prototyping.
- It allows you to print on demand.
- Strong and lightweight parts.
- Fast design and production.
- It helps to minimize waste.
- It’s very cost-effective.
- Ease of Access.
Advantages and Disadvantages of 3D Printing
What is 3D Printing and does it have advantages and disadvantages? Yes, it does! The main advantages of 3D printing are:
- It reduces costs.
- There is less waste.
- It saves time which is a competitive advantage.
- It reduces errors.
- Confidentiality is assured.
- There is production on demand.
- Initial costs of printer.
- The cost of pre and post-processing.
- Printing time can be burdensome.
- Special skills are required to use the 3D models.
- Manufacturing Job Losses.
- The limited selection of materials.
- Technology limitations
What Objects can’t be 3D printed?
Some objects can’t be 3D printed and you need to note them. For instance, materials that burn instead of melting at high temperatures can’t be processed safely by sintering or melting but can be used when extruded via a nozzle for 3D printing. Wood, cloth, and paper can’t be 3D printed also when using these processes.
How much does a 3D Printer cost?
In case you want to get a 3D Printer and you want to save but need an estimate. Well, most Entry Level and Hobbyist 3D printers cost about $300 to $500, while some can be as expensive as $1500.
The higher-end 3D printers like the Enthusiast 3D printers and Professional 3D printers cost about $1,500 to $20,000 depending on the printer’s capabilities.
With this guide, what is 3D Printing has been justified with the new generation of printers, especially the industrial-grade solutions, this will enable industries to handle a greater range of advanced materials which opens the door for businesses to benefit from additive manufacturing in areas where they could not previously.