3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that has become popular in the past years. It is a technique of transforming your virtual design into a fully three-dimensional product. It is also one of the fastest modes of developing physical prototypes accurately.
When it comes to making 3D prototypes, there are certain concepts, techniques and technologies that should be learned. Knowing how to set up 3D printing machines, selecting the right materials to be used and choosing the appropriate printing technology are crucial. Also, common mistakes may have been encountered during the printing process. For these reasons, here is a beginner’s guide to help you get started.
What are the benefits of 3D Printing?
Whether it is used for industrial or personal purposes, 3D printing has lots of advantages that are not offered in traditional methods of manufacturing.
3D printing allows designers and engineers or even hobbyists to customise the object they want to print. There is no limit to the personalisation. It suits eccentric person who likes to be surrounded by extravagant objects or the people who are passionate about unique accessories. With 3D printing, individual demand for certain product/prototype creation can be meet.
Industrial 3D printing can eliminate the need for tool production. It will help lower the labour costs and shorter lead times associated with it. With its complexity advantages, products can be designed specifically to avoid assembly requirements with intricate calculations and complex features, which minimise the labour costs that corresponds with the assembly processes.
Sustainable / Environmentally Friendly
3D printing is a known to be an energy-efficient technology that provides efficiencies in the environment in terms of its manufacturing process. It uses up to 90% of standard materials. It also imposes reduced carbon footprint compared with traditionally manufactured products. Thus, it creates less waste.
3D printers is very useful. It can build different kinds of product that can be of great help in the industrial, medical, aerospace sectors. A complex designed component can be easily made through 3D printing.
How do 3D printers work?
To start 3D printing, the first thing to do is to design a 3D model on the computer, connect it to a 3D printer, press ‘print’ and then sit back and wait. 3D printing process makes an object from thousands of tiny little slices of material. It starts from the bottom-up, slice by slice. Those tiny layers stick together to form a solid object.
3D printers can create moving parts like hinges and wheels as part of the same object. It can also be used to print handlebars, saddle, frame, wheels, brakes, pedals and chain of a whole bicycle. It is already assembled, without using any tools.
What can you make with a 3D Printer?
3D printing means anything that is needed can simply be printed. It is also a method for functional testing and validation of a product. However, a question needed to asked is “what’s in it for the average consumer?” Here are a few examples amongst many possibilities:
Turn ideas into reality
Using 3D printing, precise computer-generated design can be turned into a physical object. This means that from a simple idea, an object can be created using a CAD software.
Print a wide range of useful objects
3D printers can print several items that are helpful to everyday life and business. Tools such as vent cap, battery adapters, jig, and many more products or parts can be easily printed in Industries such as automotive, aviation, aerospace, construction, architecture, medical, dental, fashion, product design.
Fix Instead of Buy
Since 3D printing has the convenience of printing prototypes easily, designers and engineers can also use it to revise or improve a certain product. Furthermore, a specific product can be reproduced with ease based on the existing design through searching and finding it online.
A small design of 3D model can be easily made. However, big products will take time to print. Printing duration depends on the size, materials and setting of the design.
How much time does it take to 3D print any object?
Time taken to print any object depends on size and settings of the object. Factors such as type of printer, speed of the printer head for FDM, size of the print, quality of the print and infill settings affects the printing time.
A tiny object with little dimensions and infills can be printed in an hour. Meanwhile, objects with higher dimensions may take several hours to print.
Basically, SLA prints faster than any other 3D prints. However, it needs more time to clean off the parts after the printing is done.
What are the types of Additive Manufacture?
There are a wide range of techniques of making 3D prototypes. The most popular technology of 3D printing used in the industry are Fused Deposition Modelling, Selective Laser Sintering and Stereolithography.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
The common type of additive manufacturing is Fused Deposition Modeling. FDM is easy, affordable and can be used with many different materials. FDM involves filling a spool of the filament into an extruder where it’s meltdown and makes one layer at a time, to create a 3D shape. Simply put, this process is done where the materials are deposited in single layers which are fused together to form a 3D object.
Stereolithography uses a beam of UV light to draw a pattern over a photosensitive pool of liquid resin. Once the light hits the liquid, it will harden through the process of photopolymerization. When a layer is complete, the base will move to make room for the next layer, until the 3D object is made. SLA is suited for designers who want to cast their art in 3D.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
This process involves the exposure of small particles of glass, ceramics or plastics to heat using a high-powered laser. While Stereolithography uses liquid, SLS uses powder. The powder will solidify once the laser hits it. The powder that surrounds the object being printed acts as a support. After that, powder is then removed from the solid object. Although there’s not a consumer printer option available, objects can be sent for printing.
Materials used for 3D printing can affect the finished result. It is important to utilise the material suited for the product to be printed.
What Materials are used for 3D Printing?
There are different materials that can be used in 3D printing. The quality of the finished product is affected by the material utilised for printing. When printing a certain model, the materials used should be chosen properly. There is a wide range of materials to choose from.
Polylactic Acid material
PLA is an environment-friendly material. It is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources such as cornstarch, potato starch and tapioca roots. PLA can be sanded down and be painted over with acrylic paint, but some people recommend using a primer.
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
ABS is used for a very large variety of applications by industrial companies nowadays. It is flexible and quite resistant to heat. It is very durable and strong. 3D printers that are able to process ABS plastics normally operate with a hot end at a temperature around 210-250°C.
PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol)
PVA is a special plastic that is water-soluble. It needs to be kept in a sealed box or container together with a desiccant. It should be dried before use. PVA has normally extruded at a temperature of 190°C. However, it is not very easy to use as it attracts water so much. Ambient air moisture will deteriorate the filament very quickly.
3D printing has made a great impact on the world nowadays and changed the everyday life and business scope a lot. There are some features that a 3D printer should have to provide results that people want.
What are the features a 3D printer must have?
No matter which price range you’re considering, the best printers should have the following features:
- Suited your business or everyday life: The printer should be quiet and look good on your desk. It should not be too big or heavy. It must not emit odours or fumes that will be unsafe for the user.
- High-quality outcome: The printer should create quality and nice-looking finished product with layers that are thin and barely visible.
- Easy-to-use: It should be easy to load filament and then start printing.
- Connectivity options: It should be accessible to any connectivity options. It should be able to start printing over WI-FI or transfer file with a USB cable.
- Intuitive software: 3D printer’s software should be easy to use and straight forward. The model’s adjustments setting should provide different options for the user.
- Enclosed printing area: Enclosing your printing space ensures a consistent temperature for the printing job. It is vital to maintain a right temperature for the model in the process because some products may shrink off if the temperature drops.
- Heated bed: Heated beds help prevent printed objects from warping. It also helps models to stick on the print bed properly and allows more materials to be added on top . One of the most common plastics used for 3D printing is ABS. This material shrinks off as they cool down.
- Works with filament from any brand: Refills can usually be bought from the printer vendor, but filament can also come from other brands. The 3D printer should work with all brands of filament.
Overall, a 3D printer should have these features above in order to create a quality 3d printed product.
The development of 3D printing has been very crucial to engineers and designers because they are now able to produce models from computer-generated designs to physical objects driectly. For beginners, it seems that 3D printing is difficult task to start off. So they should have enough knowledge and understanding about different concepts, processes and applications in terms of 3D printing.