3D printing services or additive manufacturing, has been gaining much attention through the media these days with exciting headlines that tell us about 3D printed prosthetic limbs, bones for facial construction, robot parts, modular homes, and the list goes on. The headlines only tell us all about the most amazing 3D printing endeavors, but 3D printing is also used in everyday applications like washing machine parts, and manufacturing prototypes.
what is 3D printing?
3D printing is the process of creating three dimensional objects using one of the many additive manufacturing technologies available. The basic technology is similar to any 2D printer. The main difference being the addition of a vertical dimension. Printing can be accomplished using materials such as plastic, nylon, or even titanium, just to name a few. Although 3D printing services has been around since the 1980’s, It only became well know fairly recently. This was likely due to the substantial drop in 3D printer prices, and the expanding home-use market.
How Does it Work?
A 3D object is first designed by an engineer using a CAD(computer aided design) program, which is a 3D modeling program designed to create 3 dimensional objects. Alternately, a 3D scanner can be used to copy an object, which can then be loaded into a 3D modeling program. The final 3D model is sliced into hundred or thousands of horizontal layers, and the completed 3D model is sent to the printer as a digital file, much like any other computer application(i.e. Word, Photoshop). The printer receives the file and begins reading the file one slice at a time. The printer then begins replicating the 3D model, by printing each slice in a series of layers. Each layer is built one on top of the other until the entire object is formed.
Manufacturing – Techniques like injection molding are still much less expensive for large scale manufacturing, but 3D printing is more efficient for small scale production. Which makes 3D printing an excellent technology for rapid prototyping, design visualization, and small scale manufacturing. Rapid prototyping is the first step in taking your 3D modeling ideas into production by first creating a replica of your initial idea. If custom manufacturing is needed for a small scale project then 3D printing in what is often referred to as rapid manufacturing, may be the way to go. 3D objects created in this fashion are not prototypes but the final end user product. This type of manufacturing is ideal for custom projects that require precision, such as designing and building aircraft parts, or prosthetics.
Personal Printing – Now that 3D printers are affordable enough to purchase for home-use, many people are using desktop printers such as Makerbot Replicator to produce make their own custom 3D objects. 3D printing hobbyists can either design their own 3D CAD models or download 3D model files from websites like thingiverse.com and simply upload the file into the printer and print out objects, ranging from toys to jewelry.
3D printing is a progressive technology, making waves in science, medicine, and manufacturing, by transforming ideas into real life objects in a revolutionary new way.