What is 3D printing?

Rapid prototyping was the original name for the technique that would become known as 3D printing. It made it possible for businesses to create prototypes more rapidly and precisely than with existing techniques. Its applications today are far more varied as a result of almost 30 years of innovation.

The technology is used by manufacturers, engineers, designers, educators, doctors, and enthusiasts alike for a huge variety of applications.

What is 3D printing?

A computer model is transformed into an actual, solid, three-dimensional object via the 3D printing method, typically by adding numerous thin layers of a material in succession. Because it makes manufacturing more accessible than ever, 3D printing has swiftly gained popularity. This is caused in part by the cost (a basic 3D printer starts at around $300), but it’s also because the printers are smaller than those used in conventional production.

The additive manufacturing process of 3D printing is used to create parts. It is “additive” in that it simply stacks and fuses layers of material to create physical objects instead of using a block of material or a mould to accomplish it. It can produce more complicated geometries than “conventional” technologies, is frequently quick, has cheap fixed setup costs, and a growing array of materials. In the engineering field, it is widely utilised, especially for prototyping and developing lightweight geometries.

How does it work?

A virtual design of the thing is created first. The 3D printer will be able to read this design like it would a blueprint. CAD software, a sort of programme that can produce exact drawings and technical graphics, is used to build the virtual design. A 3D scanner, which copies an existing thing by essentially taking images of it from various angles, can also be used to generate a virtual design.

The virtual model must be ready for printing after it has been created. This is accomplished by “slicing” the model, which involves dividing it into numerous layers.

Using specialized software, slicing divides the model into hundreds or even thousands of tiny, horizontal layers.
The slices of the model are now ready to be uploaded to the 3D printer. The sliced model is moved from the computer it is on to the 3D printer using a USB cable or Wi-Fi connection. The 3D printer reads every slice of the model as the file is uploaded, printing the model layer by layer.

Understanding 3D Printing: 

The production productivity has already grown since the introduction of 3D printing technology. If it can be successfully implemented into mass production processes, it has the potential to significantly disrupt the manufacturing, logistics, and inventory management industries in the long run.

For mass production, 3D printing speeds are currently unsuitable. The technology has, however, been utilised to shorten the lead time for developing prototypes of components and devices as well as the tooling required to produce them. Small-scale manufacturers greatly benefit from this since it lowers their costs and shortens the time to market, or the period of time between the conception of a product and its availability for purchase.

In comparison to subtractive manufacturing techniques like drilling, welding, injection molding, and others, 3D printing can produce elaborate and complicated designs with less material. More invention, experimentation, and product-based companies are possible thanks to faster, simpler.


Types of 3D printing: 

  • Binder Jetting: Binder jetting involves the application of a small layer of powdered material, such as metal, polymer sand, or ceramic, onto the build platform. Next, print heads apply drops of glue to bind the material’s particles together. Layer by layer, the part is constructed using this method, and afterward, post-processing may be required to complete the build. Metal pieces can be thermally sintered or penetrated with a metal that has a low melting point, like bronze, as examples of post-processing, while ceramic or full-color polymer parts can be saturated with cyanoacrylate adhesive. Large-scale ceramic molds, full-color prototypes, and 3D metal printing are just a few of the uses for binder jetting.
  • Direct Energy Deposition: In direct energy deposition, the wire or powder feedstock is fused as it is deposited using focused thermal energy such as an electric arc, laser, or electron beam. To build a layer, the procedure is traversed horizontally, and to build a portion, layers are piled vertically.

    Metals, ceramics, and polymers are just a few of the materials that can be employed with this method.

  • Material Extrusion:

    A spool of filament is fed into an extrusion head with a heated nozzle in the process of material extrusion, also known as fused deposition modeling (FDM). The build platform then lowers in preparation for the subsequent layer after the extrusion head heats, softens, and deposits the heated material at predetermined positions.

    Short lead times and cost-effectiveness come at a cost of low dimensional accuracy and frequent post-processing to achieve a smooth finish. Additionally, this method often results in anisotropic parts, which are weaker in one direction and unsuitable for demanding applications.

  • Material Jetting:

    Comparable to inkjet printing, material jetting involves depositing layers of liquid material from one or more print heads rather than ink on a page. The layers are then allowed to cure before the procedure is repeated for the following layer. Although support structures are needed for material jetting, they can be created of a water-soluble material that can be removed once the build is finished.

    The most expensive 3D printing technique, material jetting, is a precise procedure, but the items tend to be fragile and lose quality over time. However, using this method makes it possible to produce parts in a range of materials in full color.

  • Powder Bed Fusion: In the process known as powder bed fusion (PBF), heat energy (such as a laser or electron beam) selectively melts portions of a powder bed to produce layers, which are then layered upon one another to make a part. PBF includes both sintering and melting processes, it should be noted. All powder bed systems operate in essentially the same way: a recoating blade or roller applies a thin layer of powder to the build platform; next, a heat source scans the powder bed surface, selectively heating the particles to cause them to bind. begin with the impacted powder and any necessary post-processing.The platform lowers to allow the process to start over on the following layer once the heat source has scanned a layer or cross-section. The finished product is a volume with one or more fused components encased in unaffected powder. The bed is fully elevated after the build is finished so that the pieces can be extracted from the unaffected powder and any necessary post-processing may start.
  • Sheet Lamination: Laminated object manufacture (LOM) and ultrasonic additive manufacturing are two distinct techniques for sheet lamination (UAM). UAM attaches thin sheets of metal using ultrasonic welding, whereas LOM uses alternate layers of material and glue to form objects with a pleasing appearance. Aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium may all be processed with UAM, which uses low temperatures and little energy.
  • VAT Photopolymerization: The two methods of VAT photopolymerization are stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP). Both of these procedures employ a light to selectively cure liquid resin in a vat, building pieces one at a time. While DLP flashes a single picture of each entire layer onto the surface of the vat, SLA uses a single point laser or UV source for the curing process. To increase the robustness of the pieces, parts must first be cleansed of extra resin after printing and then subjected to a light source. Additionally, any support structures must be taken out. To produce a finish of greater quality, more post-processing can be applied.

Applications of 3D printing: 

Medical 3D printing: There are several uses for 3D printing in the medical field, and each year researchers and practitioners find inventive new applications for this quickly developing technology. Because of its speed and adaptability, 3D printing is ideal for creating specialised implants, prosthetics, and patient-specific reproductions of bones, organs, and blood arteries. Additionally, it is utilised to 3D print medical devices that can save lives, anatomical models, surgical tools, and a variety of other advancements.

3D printing jewelry: There are a few causes for why so many jewellery designers employ 3D printing. By avoiding some of the drawbacks of earlier prevalent jewelry-making methods including CNC machining, handcrafting, and lost-wax casting, the technology enables jewelers to create extremely complex, highly customizable creations. Today, precious metals can be 3D printed rapidly and affordably in a variety of patterns and styles.

Rail: Applications for 3D printing in the rail sector include the production of specialized items like armrests for drivers and housing covers for train couplings. The rail industry has utilized the method to repair deteriorated rails in addition to creating custom pieces.

Robotics: The robotics business is an excellent fit for 3D printing because of its quick manufacturing, flexibility in design, and simplicity of design customization. This involves efforts to develop customized exoskeletons and quick, effective robotics.

Aerospace: Due to its capacity to produce a lightweight yet geometrically complex objects, such as blisks, 3D printing is widely employed in the aerospace (and aerospace) industry. Due to the ability to construct an object as one complete component via 3D printing, lead times and material waste are reduced when compared to traditional manufacturing methods.

– Very low start-up costs
– Very quick turnaround
– Large range of available materials
– Design freedom at no extra cost
– Each and every part can easily be customized

– Less cost-competitive at higher volumes
– Limited accuracy & tolerances
– Lower strength & anisotropic material properties
– Requires post-processing & support removal

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