Additive manufacturing is a way to make three dimensional solid objects from a digital model. Using an additive process a three dimensional object is created by laying down layer after layer of solid material until the entire object is complete. As each layer is laid down they are thinly sliced and horizontal cross sectioned. This layering is what makes the eventual object.
Printing a 3D Object
Every 3D printed objective starts with a digital Computer Aided Design or CAD file. This file is created by a 3D modeling program. The software program slices the design into hundreds of horizontal layers on the screen and within the program.
The 3D printer reads the software file and begins to crate each layer exactly to programmed specifications. As each layer is created it blends with the proceeding layer. There is no hint of layering visible.
Type of Commercial 3D Printing
A 3D printer can be a Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM printer that is similar to a two dimensional inkjet printer. The 3D version has an additional axis that deposits tiny drops of melted material through a very narrow spout to form the layers.
An elective laser sintering or SLS printer creates a 3D object by scanning a bed of powered material with a laser beam that melds bits of the power together one layer at a time.
3D printing is also called additive manufacturing or using a process that adds to one layer after another. This is opposed to subtractive process that take away pieces of material. The finished object is a creation of addition rather than subtraction.
3D printing is a process that has been used for many years. 3D printers are used in the design process creating prototypes for manufacturing.
The printing capacity of 3D printers is endless. Jewelry, replacement parts for appliances, art and toys for children are all manufactured on 3D printers. You can use metal, plastic, glass, wood, gold and silver as materials that are layered and printed.
Commercial 3D printers are used in medicine with bioprinters printing human tissue samples for pharmaceutical testing.
Architecture and construction use 3D printing to form complex architectural drawings rather than crafting building models out of balsa wood or cardboard. Experimental 3D printers (these are huge) are now printing small concrete structures with the goal of printing an entire building.
Personal 3D Printers
A personal 3D printer is also known as a DIY hobbyist model. These printers range from the $300 category to $2000. One 3D printer, the RepRap has been on the market since the late 1970s and comes in a kit form. Consumers put together their own personal 3D printer that comes complete with customizations to make its parts.
What’s so Special About 3D Printers?
There is a craft or scrapbooking 3D printer that is highly portable and built with cutting edge technology. This machine is widely used by those who are not technologically focused, yet they are able to layer material on top of one another to get amazing results out of plastics, fabrics and wood. Corkboard or sponge or whatever can be cut or “printed” can be done on a home 3D printer.
If you think that a 3D printer is not important to you, you might want to think again. Three D printers are used in almost everything you touch from shoes and electronics to building design and medicine. If you have never seen or used a 3D printer you most definitely touched an object that was made possible because of this amazing printer.
Craig Saunders writes for PrinterCorp who offer printing services to businesses in Australia including managed print services.