What is 3D Printing?
The 3D printing technology made its way to the technological world in the year 1986, but not gain importance until 1990. It was not that popular outside the world of engineering, architecture and manufacturing.
3D printing is also known as desktop fabrication, it can form any material that can be obtained as a powder. For creating an object you need a digital 3D-model. You can scan a set of 3D images, or draw it using computer-assisted design or CAD software. You can also download them from the internet. The digital 3D-model is usually saved in STL format and then sent to the printer. The process of “printing” a three-dimensional object layer-by-layer with equipment, which is quite similar with ink-jet printers.
One of the most important applications of 3D printing is in the medical industry. With 3D printing, surgeons can produce mockups of parts of their patient’s body which needs to be operated upon.
3D printing makes it possible to make a part from scratch in just hours. It allows designers and developers to go from flat screen to an exact product.
Today, almost everything from toys to aerospace components are being built with the aid of 3D printers.
3D printing can provide great savings on assembly costs because it can print already assembled products. With 3D printing, companies can now experiment with new ideas and numerous design iterations with no extensive time or tooling expense. They can decide if product concepts are worth to allocate additional resources. 3D printing could even challenge mass production method in the future.
3D printing is going to impact so many industries, such as automotive, medical, business & industrial equipment, education, architecture, and consumer-product industries.
3D Printing Technologies
There are a few technologies that are capable to do 3D printing. The main differences are how layers are built to create parts.
SLS (selective laser sintering), FDM (fused depostion modeling) & SLA (stereolithograhpy) are the most widely used technologies for 3D printing. Selective laser sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) use melting or softening material to produce the layers.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
Fused Depostion Modeling (FDM)
What is the difference between a basic rapid prototyping machine and a 3D printer?
3D printers are the simple version of rapid prototyping (RP) machines. It is has a lower cost and less capable.
Rapid prototyping is a conventional method that has been used by the automotive and aircraft industries for years.
In general, 3D printers are compact and smaller than RP machines making them ideal for use in offices. They use less energy, take less space, and are designed for low volume reproduction of real objects made of nylon or other plastics. This also means 3D printers make smaller parts. Rapid prototyping machines have build chambers that are at least 10 inches on a side; a 3D printer has less than 8 inches on a side. However, a 3D printer is capable of all the functions of a rapid prototyping machine such as verifying and validating design, creating prototype, remote sharing of information and much more.
Consequently 3D printers are easy to handle and cheap to maintain. You are able to purchase a DIY kit in the market and build it yourself for just $1000 or less for one 3D printer, while the professional RP will cost at least $50,000.
3D printers are less accurate than RP machines due to its simplicity and the limited choices of material available.”
What can you make with a 3D printer?
In the 3D printing industry, people will say “If You Can Draw It, You Can Make It”. In the video below shows various items which can be made with a 3D printer. However, complicated objects can only be made using only professional 3D printers which are currently not affordable for home use.