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what is 3D printing

Here is a little explanation about the different ways of 3D Printing.

3Ders has some nice presentations about the topic we would like to share with you. image by new balance

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 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 make it possible to make a part from scratch in just hours. It allows designers and developers to go from flat screen to exact part.

Nowadays almost everything from aerospace components to toys are getting built with the help 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.

1. What is 3D printing?

3D printing is also known as desktop fabrication or additive manufacturing, it is a prototyping process whereby an real object is created from a 3D design. The digital 3D-model is saved in STL format and then sent to a 3D printer. The 3D printer then print the design layer by layer and form a real object.

2. 3D printing technologies

Quite a few technologies 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.

This video describe how laser-sintering process melt fine powders, bit by bit, into 3D shapes.


This video shows how FDM works.

The video belows explains the process of Stereolithography (SLA).

Generally, the main considerations are speed, cost of the printed prototype, cost of the 3D printer, choice and cost of materials and colour capabilities.
3. 3D printing applications

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 make it possible to make a part from scratch in just hours. It allows designers and developers to go from flat screen to exact part.

Nowadays almost everything from aerospace components to toys are getting built with the help of 3D printers. 3D printing is also used for jewelry and art, architecture, fashion design, art, architecture and interior design.

Here are some extraordinary examples of 3D-printing:
World’s first chocolate printer

World’s first 3D printed bikini

4. What is a 3D printer?

3D printer is unlike of the common printers. On a 3D printer the object is printed by three dimension. A 3D model is built up layer by layer. Therefore the whole process is called rapid prototyping, or 3D printing. Read more..

The resolution of the current printers are among the 328 x 328 x 606 DPI (xyz) at 656 x 656 x 800 DPI (xyz) in ultra-HD resolution. The accuracy is 0.025 mm – 0.05 mm per inch. The model size is up to 737 mm x 1257 mm x 1504 mm.

The biggest drawback for the individual home user is still the high cost of 3D printer. Another drawback is that it takes hours or even days to print a 3D model (depending on the complexity and resolution of the model). Besides above, the professional 3D software and 3D model design is also in a high cost range. Alternatively there are already simplified 3D printers for hobbyist which are much cheaper. And the materials it uses is also less expensive. These 3D printers for home use are not as accurate as commercial 3D printer.

5. Whats the difference between a basic rapid prototyping machine and a 3D printer?

3D printers are the simple version of rapid prototyping machines. It is lower lost and less capable.

Rapid prototyping is a conventional method that has been used by automotive and aircraft industries for years.

In general 3D printers are compact and smaller than RP machines. They are ideal for use in offices. They use less energy and take less space. They are designed for low volume reproduction of real objects made of nylon or other plastics. That also means 3D printers make smaller parts. Rapid prototyping machines have build chambers 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 rapid prototyping machine such as verifying and validating design, creating prototype, remote sharing of information etc.

Consequently 3D printers are easy to handle and cheap to maintain. You can buy one of those DIY kit in the market and build up yourself. It is cheaper than the professional rapid prototyping, for $1000 or less you can have one 3D printer. While the professional rapid prototyping cost at least $50,000.
3D printers are less accurate than rapid prototyping machines. Because of its simplicity the material choices are also limited.

6. What can you make with a 3D printer?

In 3D printing area, people say “If You Can Draw It, You Can Make It”. In the video below shows many items can be made with a 3D printer. However complicated objects can only be made by professional 3D printers, they are not yet affortable for common family.

7. Who makes 3D printers?

Industrial 3D printer manufacturers:

Home 3D printers manufacturers:

8. What are the materials used to print 3D objects?

Many different materials can be used for 3D printing, such as ABS plastic, PLA, polyamide (nylon), glass filled polyamide, stereolithography materials (epoxy resins), silver, titanium, steel, wax, photopolymers and polycarbonate.

9. Where can I get 3D models online?

Here are some website with 3D models database:

Posted on January 7, 2014 by admin · 0 comments

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