3D Printing

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3D printing also known as additive manufacturing is “a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.” Creating the final 3D object from the file is made possible by using additive processes. An additive process is one which creates an object by layering successive layers of the same material until the object is created in the preferred dimensions.

This technology is seen as a breakthrough. It stands against the process of subtractive manufacturing which consists of hollowing out piece of metal or plastic with a machine. This is done till the desired shape is produced

History

  • 3D printing has been around for a while. In fact, the first successful patent model for 3D printing was established in 1986.
  • Yes, the first idea and patent for 3D printing was laid out in Japan in the year 1981. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds the plan was never executed in Japan. The idea moved to France they developed the design and structure. In 1984, they too attempted to apply for the patent but stopped due to a lack of funds.
  • In the same year, Charles Hull, a furniture manufacturer suggested a process similar to 3D printing to make the furniture factory workers jobs easier. The same year he presented his invention for patenting – fortunate enough to receive funding. He called this technology stereolithography. The patent was issued two years later and Charles moved on to create his own company 3D Systems. Their first product released in 1988 was the SLA-1. 

Present

  • The invention of the first 3D printer was followed with many changes and variations to support the changing times. Today, the 3D printer is regarded as a revolutionary force changing the dynamics of every industry.
  • The technology is available at affordable rates across the world. It offers you the convenience of printing objects you wish to have but do not wish to purchase, all from home.
  • The functioning of the device is easy to understand as it works like an Inkjet printer. While an Inkjet printer lays ink on a document to print text, a 3D printer lays the material on a print bed to print an object of your choice. The software is customizable and has an uncomplicated interface. 

Materials Used

  • The materials available for printing are nylon, plastic, steel and wood. The wood and steel filaments are infused into plastic filaments and are not 100%. The end result is still gorgeous and meets all your requirements so that is not of much concern.
  • Industrial 3D printers are a little different, as their material range varies a lot for instance; they offer ceramic, wax and other materials you cannot accommodate in your desktop printer. These printers are also expensive in comparison. 

Application: 3D printing is applied in various industries. From the furniture industry – as its origin suggests – to the health industry, for printing bones and solid structures or creating models for research, 3D printers are quite influential and serve purpose across industries. They are even used in architecture to give an idea of how the final construction will look. 

Alternatives and Competition: The alternatives which serve as competition to the 3D printer are desktop CNC machines (for household purposes). Industrially there are older alternatives such as Injection Molding and Metal Casting. Noticeably, 3D printers still have the upper hand due to being a technology that is still being upgraded. 

Advantages

  • 3D printers are easier to work with. They allow us to produce more complex designs with ease too.
  • There is little residue or waste left after the process unlike most traditional materials.
  • The fixed cost is lower as you are not required to create molds for each product. 

Disadvantage

  • Mass production of units is more expensive as each piece is produced separately.
  • There is less variation in the colors and materials.
  • While prototyping a product is simpler, one cannot achieve a perfect finish. 

Future: There are many expectations revolving around the 3D printing industry. It is predictably making progress and advancements in its disadvantages to become your first choice for production of units and objects. 

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