What is 3D printing?
3D printing is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. Using additive processes creates a 3D printed object. An additive process is a form of successive layering. Each piece of the object is created in layers until the entire object is printed. Every layer can be seen as a thinly sliced piece of the object.
How does it work?
To create a 3D object one must first start with a virtual design. The design is made in a computer aided design (CAD) file using a 3D modeling program or by using a 3D scanner to copy an object. The scanner can make a 3D digital copy and put it into the 3D modeling program. Once that is done, the software slices the model into thousands of layers. Then the file is uploaded to the 3D printer and the printer creates the object layer by layer. The 3D printer creates every slice by layering together the object, creating a three dimensional product.
There are a number of different 3D printing technologies, which use different materials to create the final object. Plastics, metals, ceramics, and sand are all used for industrial prototyping and production. Although plastic is the most widely used material there are alternatives such as nylon, and biomaterials. Some 3D printers process powdered materials which utilize a light/heat source to melt fuse layers of the powder together. Others use polymer resin materials and utilize a light laser to harden the resin in layers. The most common process is deposition. This process uses plastic materials to form layers and create a shape of the object. Inkjet has superior materials to ink and binder to fix the layers. Deposition is the most common process which forces plastics in filament form through a heated extruder to create layers.
3D printing processes:
Digital Light processing
Laser Sintering/Laser Melting
Extrusion/Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL)
Nylon, is used in powder form with the sintering process. Its strong, flexible and durable. This material can be combined with powdered aluminum to produce another material for 3D printing called Alumide. ABS is another type of plastic used for 3D printing and is used in filament form. It is strong and comes in different colors. PLA is a biodegradable plastic. It can be used in resin format and in filament form. It’s also offered in a range of colors.
Metals are being used more often for 3D printing. Two of the most common are aluminum and cobalt derivatives. Stainless steel is one of the most common metals and is used in powder form. Titanium is one of the strongest metals and is mostly used in industrial applications.
Standard paper is a material used by some companies. This method is environmentally friendly, recyclable and safe.
Experiments with food substances have become popular in 3D printing. Chocolate is the most common. Printers also use foods like sugar, pasta, meat etc. According to Gartner, 3D printing is still five to 10 years away from mainstream adoption. Businesses, however, use 3D printing today for prototypes and benefit greatly from its use. The main reasoning behind Gartner’s prediction is that reaching consumers will take about five to 10 years. This is because 3D printing is still quite costly to use despite broad awareness of the technology and interest. Gartner explains that in two to five years, 3D printing will become more recognized and widely used in many companies. Specifically, in healthcare that can print technology for prosthetics and implants.
Gartner Hype Cycle:
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