An Overview of 3D Printing

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Three-dimensional printing is sometimes called additive manufacturing. This process involves using a printer to create a solid object from an electronic or digital file. Slowly, as the object takes shape, the device creates layer after layer of material. The material could be plastic, metal, or many other substances.

The Process

To create an object with dimension, you must begin with a virtual design of the item you want to make. You can use a modeling program to create something completely new, or you can utilize a 3D scanner to make a copy of something that already exists. A 3D scanner copies an object digitally and inserts it into a modeling program for duplication.

The program manipulates the digital file to slice it horizontally into many very thin layers. After this preparation, the program uploads it to a 3D printer. This device then blends every layer together to make the slices invisible, which creates the three-dimensional object.

Different Methods

The selective laser sintering method involves laser fusing with the help of a powder that fuses between the layers of material. This method was originally developed in the 1980s. Fused deposition modeling is another method that involves a metal wire or a plastic filament that melts material to create fused layers. This type of production was created in the late 1980s. Stereolithography involves creating a solid from a liquid to place layers on top of each other to create the figure or object. An ultraviolet laser light cures the layers to harden them. This technique originated in 1986.

Practical Business Applications

This type of printing has many different applications in a variety of industries. Within the medical industry, doctors can create models of the human body and organs for use in research and education. Within the architectural field, architects can create model scales of buildings to present to clients. It’s also possible to create parts or items that might currently be made on assembly lines for the automotive industry and for manufacturing industrial equipment and consumer products. This major change in assembly could lead to substantial savings as companies change the way they produce the parts they need for their products.

Personal Applications

Although 3D printing is still an expensive proposition due to the high cost of the equipment, prices are coming down to a more reasonable place where consumers can begin to dabble in this technology. The price range for equipment to enable the home hobbyist to explore this process starts around $250 and goes as high as $2,500, depending on the printer.

For others who would like to explore the process, it’s also possible to create a digital file on a computer and take it to a 3D printing service to create the object. You can either take your file directly to a brick-and-mortar store for creation, or you can upload your digital file to a website. After paying for the process, the company will create your object and ship it to you.

Explore this cutting-edge printing technology to see the future of design and creation and how you can use it in your personal or professional pursuits.

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