The introduction of 3D printing

August 23, 2021

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.

The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced cross-section of the object.

3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine.

3D printing enables you to produce complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.

 

How Does 3D Printing Work?

It all starts with a 3D model. You can opt to create one from the ground up or download it from a 3D library.

3D Software

There are many different software tools available. From industrial grade to open source. We’ve created an overview on our 3D software page.

We often recommend beginners to start with Tinkercad. Tinkercad is free and works in your browser, you don’t have to install it on your computer. Tinkercad offers beginner lessons and has a built-in feature to export your model as a printable file e.g .STL or .OBJ.

Now that you have a printable file, the next step is to prepare it for your 3D printer. This is called slicing.

Slicing: From printable file to 3D Printer

Slicing basically means slicing up a 3D model into hundreds or thousands of layers and is done with slicing software.

When your file is sliced, it’s ready for your 3D printer. Feeding the file to your printer can be done via USB, SD or Wi-Fi. Your sliced file is now ready to be 3D printed layer by layer.

3D Printing Industry

Adoption of 3D printing has reached critical mass as those who have yet to integrate additive manufacturing somewhere in their supply chain are now part of an ever-shrinking minority. Where 3D printing was only suitable for prototyping and one-off manufacturing in the early stages, it is now rapidly transforming into a production technology.

Most of the current demand for 3D printing is industrial in nature. Acumen Research and Consulting forecasts the global 3D printing market to reach $41 billion by 2026.

As it evolves, 3D printing technology is destined to transform almost every major industry and change the way we live, work, and play in the future.

Examples of 3D Printing

3D printing encompasses many forms of technologies and materials as 3D printing is being used in almost all industries you could think of. It’s important to see it as a cluster of diverse industries with a myriad of different applications.

A few examples:

window display mannequins and props

  • – consumer products (eyewear, footwear, design, furniture)
  • – industrial products (manufacturing tools, prototypes, functional end-use parts)
  • – dental products
  • – prosthetics
  • – architectural scale models & maquettes
  • – reconstructing fossils
  • – replicating ancient artefacts
  • – reconstructing evidence in forensic pathology
  • movie props

Rapid Prototyping & Rapid Manufacturing

Companies have used 3D printers in their design process to create prototypes since the late seventies. Using 3D printers for these purposes is called rapid prototyping.

Why use 3D Printers for Rapid Prototyping?
In short: it’s fast and relatively cheap. From idea, to 3D model to holding a prototype in your hands is a matter of days instead of weeks. Iterations are easier and cheaper to make and you don’t need expensive molds or tools.

Besides rapid prototyping, 3D printing is also used for rapid manufacturing. Rapid manufacturing is a new method of manufacturing where businesses use 3D printers for short run / small batch custom manufacturing.

There are many areas applying 3D printing  technology such as :Automotive ,Aviation ,Construction,Consumer Products (as footwear, eyewear,jeweleries and so on),healthcare, food , education and so on

 

 

Types of 3D Printing Technologies and Processes

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), developed a set of standards that classify additive manufacturing processes into 7 categories. These are:

  1. Vat Photopolymerisation
    1. Stereolithography (SLA)
    2. Digital Light Processing (DLP)
    3. Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP)
  2. Material Jetting
  3. Binder Jetting
  4. Material Extrusion
    1. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
    2. Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)
  5. Powder Bed Fusion
    1. Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
    2. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
    3. Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
  6. Sheet Lamination
  7. Directed Energy Deposition

 

Here we will mainly introduce SLA & FDM and  SLS technique for our viewers.

 

Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA was invented in 1986 by Charles Hull, who also at the time founded the company, 3D Systems. Stereolithography employs a vat of liquid curable photopolymer resin and an ultraviolet laser to build the object’s layers one at a time. For each layer, the laser beam traces a cross-section of the part pattern on the surface of the liquid resin. Exposure to the ultraviolet laser light cures and solidifies the pattern traced on the resin and fuses it to the layer below.

After the pattern has been traced, the SLA’s elevator platform descends by a distance equal to the thickness of a single layer, typically 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm (0.002″ to 0.006″). Then, a resin-filled blade sweeps across the cross section of the part, re-coating it with fresh material. On this new liquid surface, the subsequent layer pattern is traced, joining the previous layer. Depending on the object & print orientation, SLA often requires the use of support structures.

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Vat photopolymerisation schematics. Image source: lboro.ac.uk

Material Extrusion

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

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FDM schematics (Image credit: Wikipedia, made by user Zureks)

FDM works using a plastic filament which is unwound from a spool and is supplied to an extrusion nozzle which can turn the flow on and off. The nozzle is heated to melt the material and can be moved in both horizontal and vertical directions by a numerically controlled mechanism. The object is produced by extruding melted material to form layers as the material hardens immediately after extrusion from the nozzle.

FDM was invented by Scott Crump in the late 80’s. After patenting this technology he started the company Stratasys in 1988. The term Fused Deposition Modeling and its abbreviation to FDM are trademarked by Stratasys Inc.

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)

The exactly equivalent term, Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), was coined by the members of the RepRap project to give a phrase that would be legally unconstrained in its use.

Powder Bed Fusion

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

SLS uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of powder into a mass that has the desired three dimensional shape. The laser selectively fuses powder by first scanning the cross-sections (or layers) on the surface of a powder bed. After each cross-section is scanned, the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness. Then a new layer of material is applied on top and the process is repeated until the object is completed.

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SLS schematics (Image credit: Wikipedia from user Materialgeeza)

 

 

Materials

Multiple materials can be used in additive manufacturing: plastics, metals, concrete, ceramics, paper and certain edibles (e.g. chocolate). Materials are often produced in wire feedstock a.k.a. filament, powder form or liquid resin.

Services

Looking to implement 3D printing in your production process? Get a quote for a custom part or order samples on our 3D print service page.