Before 3D printing , prototypes were either labor intensively carved out of wood or glued together with small pieces of cardboard or plastic. They could take days or even weeks to make and often cost a fortune. Getting changes or modifications made was difficult and time consuming, especially when using an external mockup company, and this could discourage designers from making improvements or accepting last minute feedback. With the advent of better technology, an idea called rapid prototyping (RP) emerged during the 1980s as a solution to this problem: it means developing models and prototypes using more automated methods, usually in hours or days rather than weeks. that traditional prototyping used to take. 3D printing is a logical extension of this idea in which product designers make their own rapid prototypes, in hours, using sophisticated machines similar to inkjet or inkjet printers. In this article I am going to describe to you in detail everything you should know about 3D printing . Let’s get started.
What is 3D printing?
Computer- aided design (CAD) is used for 3D printing with the aim of creating three-dimensional objects using a layering method. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved through additive processes . In an additive process, an object is created by placing successive layers of material until the entire object is formed. Each of these layers can be viewed as a cross section of the object. Sometimes called additive manufacturing , 3D printing is the layering of materials , such as plastics, composites, or biomaterials, to create objects with different shapes, sizes, stiffness, and colors. In short, 3D printing can provide huge savings in assembly costs because you can print products already assembled. In this way, companies can now experiment with new ideas and numerous design variations without the need to spend a lot of time or money on tools. They can also decide if the product concepts are worth allocating additional resources. and could even change the mass production method of the future. This type of technology is already a reality that is impacting many sectors, such as the automotive industry, healthcare, industrial equipment, education, architecture and consumer products.
What are 3D printers?
Simply put, 3D printers use computer-aided design (CAD) to create 3D objects from various materials, such as molten plastic, metals, or powders. A typical 3D printer is much like an inkjet printer that is operated from a computer. It builds a 3D model layer by layer, from bottom to top, by printing repeats over the same area in a method known as fused deposition modeling (FDM) .
The printer, which works automatically, creates a model over several hours by converting a CAD drawing into 3D on many two-dimensional cross-sectional layers, that is, separate 2D prints that are placed on top of each other, but without the paper In between.
Instead of using ink, which would never reach a large volume, the printer deposits layers of plastic or molten powder and fuses them (and to the existing structure) with adhesive or ultraviolet light.
These printers have extreme flexibility as to what can be printed. They can use plastics to print rigid materials, such as sunglasses. They can also create flexible objects, such as phone cases or bicycle handles, using a hybrid powder of rubber and plastic.
Some 3D printers even have the ability to print with carbon fiber and metal powders for tough industrial products.
Why are 3D printers important for the future?
As previously explained, 3D printers are quite flexible; not only in the materials they use, but also in what they can print.
In addition, they are highly accurate and fast, making them a tool with great potential for the future of manufacturing. Today many 3D printers are used for what is called rapid prototyping.
Companies around the world are using 3D printers to create their prototypes in a matter of hours, instead of wasting months of time and money on research and development.
In fact, some companies claim that 3D printers make the prototyping process 10 times faster and five times cheaper than normal R&D processes.
In short, 3D printers can play a role in almost all sectors. They are not only used for prototyping, they are currently being used to print finished products.
The construction industry is using this futuristic printing method to print entire houses. Schools around the world are using 3D printers to bring hands-on learning into the classroom by printing dinosaur bones and robotics parts in three dimensions.
Its flexibility and adaptability make it an instant game changer for any industry. All 3D printers make parts based on the same fundamental principle: a digital model is turned into a three-dimensional physical object by adding material layer by layer. This is where the parallel term additive manufacturing comes from.
What was the first 3d printing? (Brief history)
Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke first described the basic functions of a 3D printer in 1964.
The first 3D printer was released in 1987 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems and used the “stereolithography” (SLA) process.
Other 3D printing technologies were released in the 1990s and 1900s, such as FDM from Stratasys and SLS from 3D Systems. These printers were expensive and were used primarily for industrial prototyping.
In 2009, ASTM Committee F42 published a document containing standard additive manufacturing terminology. This established 3D printing as an industrial manufacturing technology.
That same year, FDM’s patents expired and the first low-cost desktop 3D printers were born thanks to the RepRap project . What used to cost €200,000 was suddenly available for less than €2,000.
According to Wohlers , the adoption of 3D printing continues to grow: between 2015 and 2017, more than a million desktop 3D printers were sold worldwide and sales of industrial metal printers nearly doubled in 2017 compared to the previous year.