3d printing is revolutionizing industrial manufacturing by offering more flexibility and agility to the complete process. Be it automotive, healthcare, or construction, 3d printing provides a variety of bespoke applications that improve the manufacturing throughout.
Many consumers are now enjoying additive manufacturing as a hobby and a side hustle. If you are also planning to hands-on this advancement, we have got you covered. In this 3D printing for beginner’s guide, we will explore all essential aspects that you need to know.
What is 3D Printing?
It is the process of creating solid 3d objects from a digital file. The production of components is done through additive processes. In this process, printers create the 3D printed object by laying down successive layers of materials until the design is created. As the manufacturing process works in a layer-by-layer manner, each layer is visible as a thin-sliced cross-section of the component.
This process is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, in which the machine performs cutting out or hollowing out a piece of material. Compared to these conventional methods, material wastage is minimal in 3d printing.
3D Printing Invention
3D printing technology is not as new as many people perceive. The first concept of additive manufacturing emerged during the 1980s. In the early 1980s, this advancement was also known as “Radio Prototyping”. Then in the year 1984, Charles Hull was the first individual to file a patent for his newly invented technology called stereolithography.
It was the first additive manufacturing technology that let engineers cure photosensitive resin layer by layer, creating a component. After getting his first patent approval in 1986, he established his company and introduced their first product called SLA-1.
How Does 3D Printing Work?
The working of 3D printing process is not complex. It creates objects by laying one layer upon another until the design is ready.
The 3d printing process begins with creating a 3D model using CAD. This file contains all the intricate details of the product’s geometry. Using 3d modelling software, designers can prepare complex designs with a faster turnaround time.
The next part is slicing, and it makes the 3d design readable to the 3d printer. As the CAD files are large, printers can’t process the data in real-time. Thus, the slicing software slices down the design into thousands of layers. After this, the software then scans every layer and sends instructions to the printer to move the nozzle and eject material.
Main 3D Printing Process
Once the slicing is done, now it’s time for the 3d printing process in which the printer will start ejecting material to create layers one upon another.
The 3D print mechanism is quick and uniform. Once the machine prints one layer, it solidifies, and then the printer ejects the second layer on top of the previous one.
Like any other manufacturing process, 3d printing also requires post-processing, where engineers give the needed surface finish to the object. There are several surface finishing options available to meet your aesthetic goals.
Types of 3D Printing Technologies
Additive manufacturing is broad, and this advancement offers a variety of technologies to meet your every manufacturing demand. Below are popular types of 3d printing technologies that you need to know:
SLA or stereolithography is among the first printing technologies that use molten plastic materials to print the solid component. First, the 3d printer uses an intense UV laser to solidify the item following the CAD instructions in the SLA method. Next, the UV laser scans the design pattern from the printing bed’s bottom, which hardens one layer at a time. Several industries are using this technology to prepare several complex parts.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
FDM or Fused Deposition Modeling is the most popular desktop 3d printing technique that uses plastic materials to create objects. In this process, the 3d printer’s nozzle ejects plastic materials layered on the printing bed. FDM is a cost-effective technology ideal for creating 3D prototypes. In addition, this process makes the rapid prototyping method more agile and faster.
Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
MJF is a powerful 3d printing method that is best for creating robust functional parts. Several big industries like automotive and manufacturing are using this technology. In this method, the printer uses powdered materials and a series of inkjet to spread the fusing agents over the nylon powder platform. In MJF, the heating component spans across the printing bed to fuse every layer. This technology lets engineers create colorful, functional parts that are ready to use in the real world.
Digital Light Processing (DLP)
DLP is similar to SLA technology, but it uses a light source to solidify the component. Thus, instead of using a UV laser, this technology uses a digital light projector screen. DLP technology is ideal for manufacturers searching for the best ways to create faster prototypes. Compared to many other processes, DLP is significantly quicker.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
DMLS is an advanced 3d printing technology that uses a laser powder bed fusion to manufacture precise geometries. This method uses a laser to melt and fuse the powdered metal layers. As a result, it is capable of building full-fledged functional prototypes in a faster turnaround time.
This additive technology is ideal for the aerospace industry, creating gas components, medical guides, and more. Compared to other technologies, DMLS offers more flexibility and functionality to a prototype. In addition, the parts made using DMLS are more durable and denser than can withstand several indoor and outdoor conditions. Among all technologies, DMLS metal 3d printing offers more productive solutions to manufacturers. Be it creating spare parts to protective machinery covering, DMLS is an ideal choice.
Materials You Need For 3D Printing
There are hundreds of additive manufacturing materials available in the market, and every material is distinct from another. As a beginner, you don’t need to try on every material to find the best fit for your project. Instead, you can get started with widely-used and popular materials like:
Polylactic Acid Material (PLA)
PLA is an ideal material for beginners starting with additive manufacturing. It’s an environmentally friendly biodegradable thermoplastic material. It is extracted from renewable resources, including tapioca roots, cornstarch, potato starch, and more. In addition, PLA is an affordable material, and you will find it easily at 3d printing stores near you.
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
ABS is used in various industrial applications as it’s durable, flexible, and heat resistant. 3d printers that process ABS plastics operate at higher temperatures ranging from 210°C to 250°C. This material is ideal for creating decorative car parts, prototyping models, protective housing for power tools, and more.
3D Printing in Different Industries
Several industries are leveraging 3d printing technology to speed up their manufacturing and drive more agility. Some key domains and their applications are:
Aerospace and Defence
This industry has been using this additive technology for years, and this domain holds around 16.8% market share. Engineers use various 3d printing applications to tackle complex challenges and drive innovation. Some applications of 3d printing in the aerospace industry are:
- For building complex functional parts
- Rapid prototyping to test new designs
- On-demand damaged parts repairing
Several automotive companies have already integrated this technology to handle their couple of operations. As the demand for personalization is growing, many OEMs are also coming forward to use 3d printing technology. Some of the transforming uses of this technology in the automotive domain are:
- Creating bespoke decorative parts
- For manufacturing lightweight spare parts
- Faster spare parts repairing
3d printing technology is a boon for the medical domain as it offers several life-saving applications. Compared to conventional technologies, 3d printing offers more flexibility. It is benefiting both doctors and the patients in various ways, including:
- Preparing high-quality prosthetics
- Creating personalized surgical instruments
- Manufacturing custom dental implants
Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the way designers draft out their creative work and make it more interactive. It helps architects create, test, and improvise the designs at an early designing stage. Some of the critical applications are:
- Creating representation models
- Emergency shelter construction
- Automating complex prototyping tasks
With the growing accessibility of 3d printing, many educational institutes are leveraging this technology. It helps teachers to deliver complex topics with a better visualization. Using 3d printing, education institutes can:
- Manufacture cost-effective models
- Recreation of historical art pieces
- Creating complex diagrams for better visualization
How To Print with a 3D Printer?
It’s quick to get started with 3D printing manufacturing; all you need to do is keep these steps in mind to kickstart your journey:
Determine What to Print
Before creating a CAD file, first, determine what you need to print and materials to build the design. In addition, also make a budget as a simple prototype is possible to build in both lower and higher budgets.
Creating 3D File
For creating a 3d file, you need to have 3d modelling and slicing software in handy. With CAD, you can start making the model with desired colors and geometry. The level of drafting intricate details depends on the software or the tool that you are using.
Preparing The 3D Printer
Once you create the 3d CAD file, you need to slice it using the slicing software to make it compatible with the 3D printer. The final file output will be in STL or OBJ format, instructing the 3d printer to perform the job.
Printing The Object
Once the printing file is ready, you can start printing the object, and the printer will begin ejecting the material in a layered manner until the entire design is prepared.
Benefits of 3D Printing
- Flexible design creation
- Easier rapid prototyping
- Lightweight and robust parts manufacturing
- Least material wastage
- Cost-effective on-demand manufacturing
Get started with 3d printing now and turn your idea into a robust product. Before you begin your journey, plan what you need and then start experimenting with its design and geometrical efficiency. You can also hire a 3d printing company that will help you with faster manufacturing.