Additive Manufacturing (AM) also known as 3D printing in its infancy is one of the most progressive technologies in the manufacturing industry and medical fields. Soon this technology will be mainstream in these fields but will also be found in many households around the globe.
Some of you may not know what AM is, the following is the standard definition by ASTM F2792-10,
“The process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing technologies.” (ASTM F2792 - 12a) Today in the manufacturing industry, many different machines types can perform an AM process, listed below in order of availability to the public. Stereo Lithography Apparatus (SLA)
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
3 Dimensional Printing Techniques (3DP)
Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)
To help clarify how the AM process works below are generic steps are required when producing a part using the AM process. 1.Create a 3D model with a computer aided design (CAD) program such as SOLIDWORKS by Dassault Systèmes. The model is virtual 3D representation of an object. 2.Export the model, which usually in a STL format so the AM process can manipulate it. 3.Import the STL model into the AM machine and setup it up for use. 4.The machine builds the part layer by layer until complete. 5.When the part is complete, take it out of the machine.
6.Once removed out of the machine it may require a post-processing step. 7.The part is now ready for use.
The 1980’s is the birth of AM technology and had only two major companies that were making machines with the AM process, 3D systems and Stratasys. The beginning of AM started in 1984 when Charles Hull developed the technology for printing physical 3D objects from digital data and in 1986 he named this technology Stereo lithography and founded the company 3D Systems (3ders.org). In 1988, 3D Systems developed the first machine that was available to the public, the SLA-250 (3ders.org). The SLA-250 uses high-powered laser technology to solidify a liquid photopolymer resin layer by layer to create a part. After building the part with the SLA machine, it requires a UV energy source to finish curing the resin. The machine is capable of building parts 10”x10”x10” in volume with a build time that can anywhere from one to four days long which even at four day build time it cuts off week or even months from the design process. These parts when complete are suitable for use in various casting process such as vacuum casting, rapid tools or metal casting. The machine is very expensive having a base machine cost of $187,000 plus an additional $12,000 for post processing equipment and $36,000 per year for a maintenance agreement. Some of the advertisements stated the SLA-250 was easy to use but according to a published white paper, this was not the case. Certain rapid prototyping vendors, and even the press, have been accused of saying "the systems are as simple as pushing a button." Not so. It can take an organization one week to more than a month to get up and running. A Florida-based company is not yet making parts after several months with a system. A Minneapolis company has sold their system. Meanwhile, companies such as Chrysler's Jeep and Truck Engineering Division and Texas Instruments, have purchased additional systems based on positive experiences with their first rapid prototyping system. In most cases, it comes down to the individuals responsible for making it happen. Rapid prototyping requires a great deal of practice and experimentation before good parts are made. (Wohlers Installing a rapid prototype system) In 1988, Scott Crump invented Fused Deposition Modeling a process that melts material one thin layer at a time to produce a part...