3D printing has been very useful in different fields today. Product designers now have the power to modify and prototype using 3D printers to produce certain products rapidly.
3D printing does not only refer to traditional type of manufacturing process. It involves different methods and technologies to create your desired objects.
With that, a well-rounded and in-depth understanding of the process is vital. To guide you, here are 6 things that should be known about 3D printing.
3D printing is a manufacturing process in which 3D parts are formed from CAD data. It is carried out by building an object layer by layer until it is completed. There are various methods and technologies that are developed to build 3D structures. They are:
- Stereolithography (SLA)
- Digital Light Processing (DLP)
- Fused deposition modelling (FDM)
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
- Selective laser melting (SLM)
- Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)
- Laminated object manufacturing (LOM)
Although 3D printing is described as an advanced technology for manufacturing, it has existed since early 1980s. In 1983, an inventor named Chuck Hull used the first 3D printing process called “stereolithography”. By using this process, he was able to create a 3D product from a digital design. He soon realised that his technique was not only limited to liquids but also can be expanded to any material that is capable of solidification.
As technology developed, the 3D printing process was improved overtime. Today, 3D printing has been utilised in many industries to provide precise outputs.
There are different reasons to try 3D printing. Read on below.
By utilising 3D printing, companies can now experiment with new ideas and numerous designs without extensive time or tooling expense. Companies can decide if product concepts are worth for mass production in the future.
Here are some reasons why designers and engineers use 3D printing:
The product can be customised and revised right up to the very last minute which is something that subtractive manufacturing methods cannot do. This means that 3D printing offers an effective and valuable way of finding out whether a product has its market potential and will be successful in the future.
Unlike conventional manufacturing, machine operation costs and material costs as well as labour costs are relatively high. When it comes to 3D printing, tools and parts that are created using additive manufacturing method are cheaper than the ones made by traditional machining.
Shorter lead time
3D printing makes it possible to create a model or prototype easily. It can be of great help to many engineers, designers and companies to get faster feedback on their designs in a short time.
Freedom to design
With 3D printing, the possibilities for your ideas and designs are limitless. You can 3D print almost anything after sketching it virtually. Your simple idea or concept of a product can become reality quickly.
Can be modified easily
3D printing is useful especially when you are planning to make large investments in a certain product. Before mass production, you can 3D print a test prototype which can be easily redesigned and altered.
Models that have large and complicated designs can be easily created by a 3D printer and they can be felt physically. Therefore, it is easier to train others about complex geometry and minimise misunderstanding between colleagues and companies
With 3D printing, anyone can be benefited, regardless what profession or industry you come from. These are main industries and fields where 3D printing is used:
- Car manufacturing
- Doctors and dentists
- Aircraft manufacturing and aerospace companies
- Production designing and prop making
- Design entrepreneurs
- Shoe manufacturing
3D printing consists of 3 basic steps:
a. 3D file preparation
Everything begins with an idea. The first phase of 3D printing is laying out a unique design in a 3D file which can be created using a CAD software or animation modelling software. There are also other options such as searching online for 3D models that have been shared and created by others. When your file is ready for printing, you can now proceed to the next step.
b. Printing process
Before printing, you should choose what material is best to be used to achieve the specific features required for your object. The materials you can use include ceramics, plastics, resins, sand, metals, textiles, glass, biomaterials and many more.
There are several printing technologies that you can utilise depending on the material you use. If you will use alumide or plastic, you can use these methods:
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
This technique consists of melting successive layers of powder using a high-powered laser beam to form your desired object. This process is only available for plastic and alumide materials.
Fused deposition modeling (FDM)
This is the process when the material is being melted and extruded through a nozzle. The machine then prints a cross section of the object layer by layer at a time. This process repeats until the object is completely printed.
For resin or wax materials, you can use the following technologies:
In this method, a vat of curable photopolymer resin is used. A liquid polymer is exposed to ultraviolet laser and draws a cross-section of your model layer by layer. This process is repeated until your object has been created.
Digital Light Processing (DLP)
Digital Light Processing or DLP is a process that is very similar to SLA. A liquid crystal display panel is placed under a large amount of light. However, unlike SLA, DLP uses conventional sources of light such as arc lamps.
Multijet printers are also similar to Stereolithography. In this process, a printer jet sprays tiny droplets of photopolymer to form the first layer. An ultraviolet lamp crosslinks the polymer layer by layer until the object is formed.
c. Finishing process
The finishing step requires specific skills and materials to succeed. The whole printing process is completed until it is polished, lacquered and painted as intended.
There are plenty of things that can be printed with 3D printers.
Most of these products can be used in your daily life while more and more product prototypes are created before mass production by many businesses. There is a saying that you can 3d print almost everything in the future (eg. Click here to see 3d printed house)
Nowadays, 3D printing is gaining its popularity. However, this type of manufacturing also has its limitations.
Limitations of 3D printing
Most 3D printers can only print models that use a specific type of material. With this limitation, 3D printers cannot create or print complex objects such as cell phones. Nevertheless, researchers have already begun developing improvements for 3D printers.
With your own ideas in mind, you can create tons of things you could ever imagine with 3D printing. You just need to get your own 3D printer to bring your ideas to life.
If you don’t have a budget to get a 3D printer, you can find some company to print the objects for you. It is easier to send schematics or images to be 3D printed. There are also some 3D printing services which offer 3D model drawing if you don’t have a 3D file available.
With the right tools and services availalbe in the market that help improve every phase your product design and prototype, you can easily reap the benefit of 3d Printing.
3D printing is always evolving. It can help you create different 3D printed samples efficiently comparing with the slow and costly old manufacturing method.
Utilising 3D printing technology to its fullest is impacting most designers and manufacturing engineers as well as the consumers nowadays. Reaching out to a reliable 3D printing Service provider for help can ensure that your 3d printing job is in safe hand.