Learning what 3D printing is all about is like trying to understand how the future would look like. Though manufacturing companies have been using this technology for the past decades, most people are still in the dark or only beginning to become aware of this process.
What is 3D printing?
Consider an image of your smartphone device and the real smartphone you’re probably holding in your hand right now or maybe it’s resting somewhere at an arm’s reach. That image of your mobile device is only a 2D or 2-dimensional object because you can see that it has the physical looks of your phone – and that’s all. On the other hand, that actual mobile device on your hand is a 3D or 3-dimensional object because you can both see and touch its width, height, and depth.
In short, depth is that aspect that separates a 2D object from a 3D object. What 3D printing technology does then is something like breathing an object into life. It’s re-creating actual objects that you can experience with all your senses.
3D printing can make use of a variety of materials such as plastic, metal, nylon, glass filled polyamide, epoxy resins, silver, titanium, steel, wax, photopolymers and polycarbonate.
Now what makes this really cool is the fact that it’s an additive manufacturing process. This means an object is created by adding a bunch of layers until it becomes an identical version of what you’re trying to create. What’s even more mind-blowing is that you can even make these 3D objects serve the same purpose as the actual ones. And all you need in order to make this happen is a 3D model of the desired object. How cool is that?
So how does 3D printing work?
The first step is to develop a virtual design or 3D model. You can do this through a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file, which is in turn created by a 3D modelling application or with a 3D scanner. There are a variety of 3D scanners you can choose in the market, including DIY scanners that come at only $30.
But if you don’t have the budget nor the know-how, you can simply download a 3D modelling software online, which is really a more convenient option since not all of us know anything about CAD and it can be really costly. If this alternative sounds more appealing to you, you can start with freeware like TinkerCAD or Blender.
The next step would involve slicing or that process of cutting the 3D model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers through the use of a 3D modelling software. You can then use a USB, SD or Wi-Fi to upload the sliced file into the 3D printer. The 3D printer would then transform the file into a 3D image by printing layer by layer.
3 Types of Technology
The 3D industry does not necessarily use the same technology on their 3D printers. These are the three major printing technologies:
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) – This is a common industry method that uses a laser to bind a source material in order to create the solid 3D object.
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) – This is also a common industry technique for modeling, prototyping and product applications. In this process, a source material is melted in order to create the 3D object.
- Stereolithography (SLA) – Charles Hull came up with and owned patent rights to this process in 1986. The process uses ultraviolet laser beams to link together chains of molecules layer by layer.
Amazing Applications of 3D printing:
3D printing technology saves valuable time and money and can also be used in a wide range of ways. Its impact has advanced and been proven effective in the fields of science, aerospace and aviation, automotive, food printing, architecture, interior design, industrial robot, gadgets, music and entertainment, fashion, jewelry and so much more.