With emergency and rapid invasion of COVID-19 patients at a large scale, the hospitals and medical institutions went into a shock coupled with the worldwide supply of hazmat suits and medical clinical devices decreasing. The world turned to 3D technology to resolve this shortage.
Truth be told, numerous medical services and facilities went to 3D printing to supply frontline warriors with much-required medical kits; even the parts to fix their ventilators were created. Large firms, new businesses, and surprisingly, graduates with 3D printers took care of business and addressed this call. Due to 3D printing, many PPE and ventilator parts have been dispatched to hospitals on the cutting edges of this destructive battle. Furthermore, that is truly the start of what 3D printing can do.
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is defined as creating three-dimensional objects from a digital file. 3D printed objects are created via additive processes. In this process, an object is formed by creating consecutive layers of material displayed as a thin-sliced cross-section of the object.
3D printing is the reverse of subtractive manufacturing, which is hollowing out pieces of objects using a milling machine. 3D print tech assists you in producing complex shapes through the use of modern printing technology.
What are 3D Printers?
3D printers create 3D objects and products from different materials like powder, plastic, etc., via computer-aided design (CAD). These printers are the same as 2D printers, but the only difference is created through the layering technology used for producing objects.
These 3D printers are extremely flexible, with a wide range of products that can be printed. They can form flexible objects by using hybrid rubber and plastic powders. A few 3D printers can work with metallic powders and carbon fiber to create strong industrial objects.
Why are 3D printers important?
As discussed above, 3D printers are quite flexible in printing and usage of different types of materials. Also, they are quite fast and accurate, increasing their foothold and becoming an inevitable tool for the manufacturing industry’s future. At present, 3D printers are used for rapid prototyping. Replacing the cost of millions of dollars in research to create prototypes using 3D printing technology is becoming a niche. Companies all over the world now employ 3D printers to create their prototypes in a matter of hours. Many companies claim this technology to be around 8 times faster in the prototyping process and 6 times lesser cost when compared to the R&D process.
3D printers are virtually acquiring every industry. Not only prototyping, but many 3D printers are also used for printing finished objects. In the construction industry, it is used for printing complete homes via futuristic printing. Witnessing today, the healthcare sector is using this technology to its fullest to counter the pandemic. Playing a major role in the robotics and science field, 3D tech brings a lively hands-on experience to the classrooms through three-dimensional robotics printing and creating dinosaur bones. This flexible 3D printing technology is becoming powerful enough to a game-changer in any industry.
How Does a 3D Printer Work?
3D printing is a combination of different software that uses various materials like powders, plastics, carbon fibers, etc., to create a three-dimensional product. Three main processes have been discussed below to help you with how 3D printing works.
3D Modelling Software
3D Modelling is the primary step of a 3D printing process and brings accuracy and precision to the prints. But a few of the designs are too complex and detailed, and then CAD software is used. To the tiniest details, the modeling software customized the objects with high precision. This modeling software is a major game-changer in a pharma industry like dentistry, in which 3D software modeling is used for designing teeth aligners. Even the space industry uses this modeling software as it helps them create different designs of rockets, spaceships, and parts.
Slicing the Model
After the model is successfully created, we need to “slice” it. Slice means forming consecutive layers of a product to form a final product with perfect detailing and accuracy. Slicing software performs a scan of every layer of a 3d model guides the printer on how to recreate those successive layers. Slicers also assist the prints guiding them where to fill a model. Filling an object means providing internal columns and lattices for flexible shaping and strong solid objects. Once the slicing of the model is completed, it will be sent to the 3D printer for the final printing process.
The 3D Printing Process
Once the modeling and slicing of a 3D object are done, the 3D printer will finally complete the task. The printer works the same way as an inkjet printer in the 3D printing process. A nozzle moves forward and backward while ejecting layer by layer a plastic-like polymer wax and then waiting for the layers to settle and dry and repeat the layer by layer. Various 2D prints are added one above the other to create a final 3D object. A range of materials is employed for recreating any 3D object. We have provided the examples below.
- Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS): LEGOs are made of ABS as this type of plastic material is not easy to break, but it is quite easy to shape.
- Carbon Fiber Filaments: For creating strong but light in weight objects, carbon fibers are used.
- Conductive Filaments: These filament materials are still in the preparatory phase and are used as a material in wearable technology and to print electric circuits without wires.
- Flexible Filaments: These flexible filaments are tough, rigid, but still bendable, making them an asset in printing wristwatches to phone covers.
- Metal Filament: A combination of ground metals and polymer glue can be found in the metal filaments. Also, they can be seen in steel, copper, brass, and bronze to enhance the look and outer structure of a metal object.
- Wood Filament: A combination of groundwood powder mixed and polymer glue can be found in the wood filament. These are used for printing wooden-looking objects, and the contrast of the print depends on the printer’s temperature.
From a few hours to weeks, the 3D printing process depends on the prints’ size, like simple prints of the box or a ball to full-sized home prints. Different kinds of 3D printing can be carried out as per the size and detail of a project.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a mostly used form of 3D printing for creating plastic models for manufacturing prototypes.
Stereolithography (SLA) Technology is one of the printing types for fast prototyping of intricate and detailed printing. This technology makes use of ultraviolet lasers for crafting objects in hours.
Digital Light Processing (DLP), the oldest 3D printing form, uses lamps for creating prints at high speed as the ink in between the layers dries faster.
3D Printing Examples
3D printing is being used in many spheres of life, and it has almost acquired every type of industry. A few of its examples have been given below:
- Eyewears, furniture, footwear, and other consumer products.
- Manufacturing tools, functional end-use parts, and prototypes of industrial products.
- Dental equipment.
- Maquettes and architectural scale prototypes
- Fossils reconstruction
- Ancient artifacts replicating models
- Forensic pathology evidence reconstruction.
- Props of movies.
Companies and firms have used 3D printing technology to create prototypes of their products, and this design process has been named rapid prototyping. We will now discuss the need for rapid prototyping in detail.
Why should we use 3D Printers for Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid Prototyping is quite fast and cheap. It has fastened the design process of creating the prototypes in a matter of days instead of weeks. Also, not expensive tools or molds are needed in the process of prototyping.
Except rapid prototyping, Rapid manufacturing also falls under 3D printing. It is the latest method for small batch custom manufacturing via 3D printing technology. Now let’s discuss a few important industries that use 3D technology.
The automotive industry has been using 3D printing for printing spare tools, parts, fixtures, jigs, and end-use parts. On-demand manufacturing, enabled by 3D print tech, has given rise to low stock levels, and the production and design cycles have become less time-consuming.
Aviation and Aerospace Technology
Aviation and aerospace technology have been using 3D printing since 1980. The aviation industry uses 3D printing in many different ways. From creating cobalt-chrome fuel nozzles to 3D printed aircraft and space shuttles, this technology has evolved to a greater extent at present. The rockets created are custom-printed through a proprietary alloy metal that increases the payload capacity and decreases assembly time.
Aerospace parts have internal channels, thin walls, complex curved surfaces, and other internal features for conformal cooling. 3D printing design can produce extremely complex and lightweight models with high strength and maximum stability and integrate different parts into a single component. This can cause:
- Reduction in Costs.
- Waste Reduction.
- Faster Production.
- Consistency is increased.
- Surface Finishing across aircraft is better.
3D Printed Organs
With advancing technology, we will surely witness the rise of 3D printing for organ transplantation shortly. The next big thing is the development of kidneys, hearts, livers, etc., via 3D tech to replace the traditional process of organ donation. For the 3D printed organs, are firstly modeled via the exact and definite specifications of the receiver’s body and then living cells, a polymer gel is combined to recreate an organ prototype layer by layer, and this astonishing technology can be a changer in the pharma industry to save millions and millions of lives.
3D Printed Prosthetic Limbs
3D printing has been an asset when it comes to the prosthetics field. Despite spending millions of dollars on a new leg, hand, or arm with traditional prosthetic techniques, 3D printers can give the same look and usage with the cost as low as you can think of. But these printed prosthetics are not the best of quality when compared to professional prosthetics. Still, they are an extraordinary replacement for people who break their prosthetics more often.
3D Printing is the process of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital file. 3D printed objects are created via additive processes. 3D printers create 3D objects and products from different materials like powder, plastic, etc., via computer-aided design (CAD). These printers are the same as 2D printers, but the only difference is created through the layering technology used for producing objects.
These 3D printers are extremely flexible, with a wide range of products that can be printed. They can form flexible objects by using hybrid rubber and plastic powders. With this technology rising, it covers every industry from automotive, aviation, aerospace to medical fields.
We have tried our best to bring together all the valuable information on 3D Printing in an article that will enable you to get all its aspects in a nutshell. We hope that we could assist you with the best of knowledge, and in case you need any other information associated with printing, you can check our other articles on the website.