I will be discussing 3D Printing and How it Works in this article but first of all what is 3D printing?
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing or additive manufacturing is the action or process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession.
The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced cross-section of the object.
Types of 3D Printing
There are several types of 3D printing, which include:
- Stereolithography (SLA)
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
- Digital Light Process (DLP)
- Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
- Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
- Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
How Does 3D Printing Work?
It all starts with a 3D model. You can opt to create one from the ground up or download it from a 3D library.
There are many different software tools available. From industrial grade to open source. We’ve created an overview on our 3D software page.
We often recommend beginners to start with Tinkercad. Tinkercad is free and works in your browser, you don’t have to install it on your computer. Tinkercad offers beginner lessons and has a built-in feature to export your model as a printable file e.g .STL or .OBJ.
Now that you have a printable file, the next step is to prepare it for your printer. This is called slicing.
Slicing: From printable file to 3D Printer
Slicing basically means slicing up a 3D model into hundreds or thousands of layers and is done with slicing software.
When your file is sliced, it’s ready for your 3D printer. Feeding the file to your printer can be done via USB, SD or Wi-Fi. Your sliced file is now ready to be 3D printed layer by layer.
Adoption of 3D printing has reached critical mass as those who have yet to integrate additive manufacturing somewhere in their supply chain are now part of an ever-shrinking minority. Where 3D printing was only suitable for prototyping and one-off manufacturing in the early stages, it is now rapidly transforming into a production technology.
Most of the current demand for 3D printing is industrial in nature. Acumen Research and Consulting forecasts the global market to reach $41 billion by 2026.
As it evolves, 3D printing technology is destined to transform almost every major industry and change the way we live, work, and play in the future.
Adavantages and Disadvantages
1. Bespoke, cost-effective creation of complex geometries:
This technology allows for the easy creation of bespoke geometric parts where added complexity comes at no extra cost. In some instances, 3D printing is cheaper than subtractive production methods as no extra material is used.
2. Affordable start-up costs:
Since no moulds are required, the costs associated with this manufacturing process are relatively low. The cost of a part is directly related to the amount of material used, the time taken to build the part and any post processing that may be required.
3. Completely customisable:
Because the process is based upon computer aided designs (CAD), any product alterations are easy to make without impacting the manufacturing cost.
Ideal for rapid prototyping:
Because the technology allows for small batches and in-house production, this process is ideal for prototyping, which means that products can be created faster than with more traditional manufacturing techniques, and without the reliance on external supply chains.
The disadvantages include:
1. Can have a lower strength than with traditional manufacture:
While some parts, such as those made from metal, have excellent mechanical properties, many other 3D printed parts are more brittle than those created by traditional manufacturing techniques. This is because the parts are built up layer-by-layer, which reduces the strength by between 10 and 50%.
2. Increased cost at high volume:
Large production runs are more expensive with 3D printing as economies of scale do not impact this process as they do with other traditional methods. Estimates suggest that when making a direct comparison for identical parts, 3D printing is less cost effective than CNC machining or injection moulding in excess of 100 units, provided the parts can be manufactured by conventional means.
Limitations in accuracy:
The accuracy of a printed part depends on the type of machine and/or process used. Some desktop printers have lower tolerances than other printers, meaning that the final parts may slightly differ from the designs. While this can be fixed with post-processing, it must be considered that 3D printed parts may not always be exact.
Most 3D printed parts require some form of post-processing. This may be sanding or smoothing to create a required finish, the removal of support struts which allow the materials to be built up into the designated shape, heat treatment to achieve specific material properties or final machining.
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