Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What is 3D Printing?

3D Printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process that creates a physical object from a digital design. There are different 3D printing technologies and materials you can print with, but all are based on the same principle: a digital model is turned into a solid three-dimensional physical object by adding material layer by layer. Plastics, metals and metal composites, ceramics and other materials can all be used to create the physical object.

Every 3D print starts as a digital 3D design file on a computer. It's like a blueprint for a physical object. The design file for a 3D printer is like a text or word processor file would be used to print a document on a sheet of paper. This design file is sliced into thin layers which is then sent to the 3D printer. The printing process varies by technology, starting from desktop printers that melt a plastic material and lay it down onto a print platform to large industrial machines that use a laser to selectively melt metal powder at high temperatures. The printing can take hours to complete depending on the size. The printed objects are often post-processed to reach the desired finish.

3D Printer 
A 3D printer is unlike your standard laser-jet or ink-jet (2D) printer. On a 3D printer the object is printed in three dimensions - length, width and height, where a 2D printer can only print length and width on a surface object such as paper. A 3D model is built up layer by layer. The whole process is called 3D printing.

Who is Using 3D Printing?
Car manufacturers use 3D printing for prototyping, testing and creating car parts. Swedish car manufacturer Koenigsegg uses 3D printing to manufacture the turbocharger for their model One:1.

Prosthetic manufacturers create custom prosthetic devices and manufacture them at very affordable prices. When these devices are produced through conventional manufacturing methods, they can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The dental and orthodontics fields use this technology to create braces and retainers that are tailored specifically for the needs of their patients.

Aircraft manufacturer GE Aviation has developed a method to 3D print fuel nozzles for jet engines.

Architects easily create scale models to demonstrate their intended design. Before the introduction of 3D printing into the field, creating scale models was an extremely laborious and time-consuming process.

What Lies Ahead for You
As applications of the technology expand and prices drop, more goods will be manufactured at or close to their point of purchase or consumption. This might even mean household-level production of some things. In that case, you’ll pay for the raw materials and design files for any object that you will need print.

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David Schuchman