3D Printers are the printers used to build three-dimensional objects using a Computer-Aided Design model. They usually add the materials successively in the form of layers, due to which 3D printing is also sometimes known as Additive Manufacturing. 3D printing uses printers which work in different processes of joining or solidifying the product material under the control of computers and then create a three-dimensional object. A major advantage of 3D printing is that it enables the printers to produce shapes or products that are very complex in shape. The most important prerequisite for producing a 3D product or shape is a CAD Design file.
3D printers, which use the CAD Design to create objects, have many other features which give it an edge over the regular printers. Some of the major features that make 3D printers are as follows:
1. 3D printers can produce fully functional and color objects. They can use over 250 different types of materials to create these objects. The materials include metals, plastics, ceramics, glass, rubber, stem cells, leather, and even chocolate.
2. With recent methods, 3D printers have been able to produce complex shapes, that too up to 100 times the usual speed of traditional 3D printers.
3. 3D printers can produce not just fully functional objects, but they can do so at cost-efficient rates, where the requirement of raw materials is reduced by almost 90 percent.
There are numerous methods of 3D printing which have developed objects and structures time and again. Following are the most common types of 3D Printers and the technologies used in 3D printing recently:
1. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)
Currently, the most popular technology of 3D printing, FDM is not only used in 3D printers, but also 3D pens. Founded and developed in the early 1980s, this technology has been used by many companies over the years.
This technology helps you to print not just operational prototypes, but even products that are ready to use, like plastic objects, gears, Lego, and others. FDM is quite possibly the only 3D printing technology that uses production-grade thermoplastics to make the objects using software with Computer-Aided Design. Moreover, the objects created by this technology are all of the high performance, which thereby benefits the manufacturers even more. The FDM technology is very prevalent today, with its use in automobile manufacturing, food-producing, and toy manufacturing industries. It is also the most preferred 3D printing method in the medical sector.
Known as the earliest models of 3D printing in history, SLA is a method which is still in use, even today. This is one technology that can truly give life to your 3D models, whether it is a plastic prototype or a new object for a project.
Unlike other 3D Printers, SLA printing machines do not require a certain ink quantity. These printers use an excess of liquid plastic which tends to solidify after a while and form the solid object. After the object hardens, the printer drops the other layers simultaneously until the printing is finished. Once all the individual layers are oriented, the object is rinsed using a solvent and then put inside a UV oven for the processing to complete.
3. Digital Light Processing(DLP)
Mostly used in the production of projectors, this 3D printing technology uses digital micromirrors to create objects with the help of a CAD Design. Found in mobile phones and film projectors, DLP functions with the help of photopolymers, with an additional source of lighting.
It also has an LCD panel, which gets applied to the surface of the printed layers during the run of the DLP procedure. This technology uses liquid plastic resin set inside a transparent resin container for the creation of objects. This resin hardens when it is exposed to bright light.
4. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
This is a technology that uses the laser as a source of power to create 3D objects. It also uses powdered material to create objects rather than liquid resin or plastic. Just like other technologies, it begins the creation process with a Computer-Aided Design file, which then gets converted into the .stl format.
Materials like nylon, glass, and even ceramics and metals such as aluminum, silver, or steel can be used to create objects with this technology.
5. Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
6. Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
7. Digital Beam Melting (EBM)
The above-mentioned technologies, namely SelectiveLaser Melting, Laminated Object Manufacturing, and Digital Beam Melting, are all types of 3D orienting technologies that have gone out of use in recent years. Some of them are also economically unviable. Due to this, none of the 3D printers use these technologies any more.
After more than three decades of its invention, 3D printing is one thing that has still been developing and advancing with the new technologies entering the market. The many advancements in printable materials along with the development in the various mechanical techniques have given way to the creating of different objects and structures.
Additionally, 3D printing has also reduced costs and improved the efficiency where manufacturing and especially engineering is concerned. It has also shown that it is capable of serving other industries, such as healthcare and robotics, among others.
Quite recently, Siemens printed its 3D gas turbine blades using a nickel-based alloy, which means that 3D printing can also be done with metals. This has benefitted a lot of large-scale industries, which have now actively been using Metal 3D printing. Even NASA has successfully 3D printed the part of a rocket using two different metal alloys.
Engineers from MIT invented a 3D printed vaccine in 2017 which offers people multiple immunizations with a single vaccination. This could potentially revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry since no one has ever been able to create 3D microparticles that can hold different vaccine doses. This project could also improve the rates of immunization for those people who do not have regular or easy access to healthcare.
Even in the robotics industry, 3D orienting has proved its feat. With the help of 3D printing techniques, robotics engineers have been able to create complicated parts of robots. These can also perform many different functions. Some of these 3D printed robots also have the ability to sweat, like humans.
It is no doubt that 3D printers are contributing to the technological future of printing, and its effects on our lives. They are continuously being used to create new shapes and ultimately shape our future. Not only have they been applied in areas of aviation and education, but have also contributed a lot towards healthcare.
Moreover, with 3D printing, users and industries can now create and compose their unique prototypes, print them with the printers and then choose the one they wish to use in the market. It offers them a chance to replace parts of the prototype if they want to easily. Additionally, 3D printers also save time as well as money, thereby helping the users to conduct their research at low costs.
Interestingly, with 3D printing, companies around the world have also been making 3D products using a specific Computer-Aided Design for the low volume production of these products. This is also easy considering there is no need for the checking of the complete process of operation to change or order new machines for manufacturing the products.
In the case of mass production, the Adidas 4D Future Craft Shoes is possibly the most famous example. The soles of these shoes are made entirely by a 3D Printer. Therefore, in this kind of production, there is essentially in additional waste. Given the fact that the whole sole of the shoe is one single piece, it does not require a number of different pieces, which would inevitably lead to waste generation.
Also known as Additive Manufacturing, 3D printing involves the designing of a product, such as an engine part, game piece, or even a car, using software of CAD Design. The software then uses a 3D Printer to make the product by adding layer upon layer of material. This material can either be plastic, metal, or even concrete, among others.
The process of 3D printing has its own advantages over traditional methods of manufacturing in the sense that it can create a fully-functioning product in a single piece, without using multiple parts to create it.
Aerospace is one such industry which has been a major adopter of the process of 3D printing. As a matter of fact, Boeing, United Technologies Corp. Planes and other rockets are some of the companies that have been using Computer-Aided Designs to produce their airplanes. Contrary to the automotive industry, the aerospace industry uses 3D printing in much smaller volumes. This reduces any concern regarding the new printing technology overpowering the former industry, which produces several million automotive parts every year.
The automotive industry uses 3D printing mostly for the process of prototyping and tooling, that too for a few years now. This also means that the use of CAD design is also essential for 3D printing in this industry.
With the many innovations of 3D printing listed above, it is safe to say that this is one technology that will only create more in the future. It is a technology that will only do what oi toes best, which is making the impossible, possible.
As of now, reports suggest that the global 3D printing industry will supposedly reach a staggering $50 billion by 2028, which means that 3D printing is here to stay and change the future.