3D Printing or additive manufacturing turns a digital model into a solid, tangible, three-dimensional object. The process quickly became popular because it made manufacturing easy to access. Students, hobbyists, entrepreneurs, and big factories use this, making it quite relevant in our time today.
An overview of a 3D Printing Process
Create a virtual design
The first step is to create a virtual design of the object. This acts as a blueprint that the 3D printer will read. A computer-aided design (CAD) is used to produce technical illustrations and precise drawings of the design.
The virtual design can also be produced with a 3D scanner. The scanner will produce a copy of the existing object by getting shots from different angles.
Preparation for printing
The virtual design is prepared for printing once it’s finished. The model is divided into hundreds or thousands of thin layers in a process called slicing.
The slices are uploaded to the printer using a Wi-Fi connection or USB cable. The printer will print layer by layer once the file is uploaded.
Material extrusion is the process wherein the 3D printer starts to print the material’s several layers. There are different methods of material extrusion depending on the kind of material and the 3D printer used.
Usually, the printer has a nozzle that ejects a semi-liquid material such as cement, metal, or molten plastic. The extrusion nozzle moves in both vertical and horizontal directions as it precisely forms the material. The object forms layer by layer based on the digital model’s blueprint.
Where can 3D Printing be applied?
Several industries are now enjoying the wonders of 3D printing, such as:
The medical sector is one of the earliest adopters of 3D printing. The technology is used to produce knee and hip implants. It is also valuable for in patient-specific items like hearing aids, prosthetics, and orthotic insoles for shoes.
3D printed surgical guides for some operations are pretty useful for surgeons. The technology is now being developed to create skin, tissue, bone, and even organs.
The aerospace industry is also an early adopter of 3D Printing. Due to the critical nature of developing aircraft, R&D is strenuous and demanding. The technology allows them to push the boundaries of manufacturing applications to meet demand.
3D Printing makes it possible to make accurate demonstration models to realise the architect’s vision. It’s an easy, fast, and economically viable way of making detailed models straight from 3D, CAD or BIM.
The food industry is just starting to explore the wonders of 3D printing. The use of the technology started with sugar and chocolate. It’s now changing the way how food is prepared and presented.
5 Significant Benefits of 3D Printing
The technology offers several benefits not provided by traditional methods, whether at a personal, local, or industrial level.
1. It allows for customisation
3D Printing makes mass customisation possible. It creates several products at the same time based on end-user requirements without additional process costs.
2. It can work on complex design
3D Printing paves the way for products that cannot be produced physically due to their level of complexity. This has a big impact on industrial applications. They can now make complex parts that are proven to be stronger and lighter than their predecessors. The aerospace sector benefited from this, where these kinds of issues are critical.
3. 3D printing eliminates the need for tools
One of the most time-, cost-, and labour-intensive parts of product development is producing the tools. 3D printing removes the need for tolls for low to medium volume applications. As a result, the lead time, cost, and labour involved also decreases.
In addition, the parts and products may be specifically designed to simplify assembly requirements. This further reduces the costs and labour related to the assembly process.
4. It is sustainable
3D printing is also seen as energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. It uses up to 90% of the standard materials, thereby producing less waste. There is also a lower carbon footprint as compared to traditionally manufactured products.
5. 3D printing creates business opportunities
3D printing effectively reduces the cost of entry for entrepreneurs. Previously, a person may need at least $100,000 to create a new product’s prototype. Now, this can go as low as $2000 to $4000. As a result, developing prototypes is now more affordable for aspiring entrepreneurs.
3D Printing has a huge potential in improving our lifestyle
3D printing is a rapidly evolving technology with a tremendous amount of potential for the future. We’ve only started to witness how 3D printed objects can make our lives safer, healthier, and more convenient – and we can’t wait for more!
As people continue to explore ways to develop and maximise the process, it may not be long before we live in a world where we 3D print our food or everyday items from the comfort of our home.
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