3D printing, also known as additive printing, uses the latest technologies to convert digital files into actual three-dimensional objects. The desired object can be loaded into a 3D printer by scanning, using design software such as CAD, or downloading 3D modeling files from the internet. A 3D object is created by laying down particular materials in successive layers according to the design of the object in an additive process.
Each layer can be perceived as a horizontal, thinly sliced, cross-section of the object you wish to create. It enables functional, complex shapes to be produced with less material than used in traditional manufacturing. It is, in fact, the opposite of traditional subtractive manufacturing that creates objects by cutting/hollowing out a piece of plastic or metal for example with a milling machine.
Methods and Technologies
Different technologies are used to create different objects with a 3D printer, but the ultimate aim is to create a solid object. There are three types of technology currently used for 3D printing:
– SLS – Selective Laser Sintering
– FDM – Fused Deposition Modeling
– SLA – Stereolithography
How Does it Work?
3D printing starts with the creation of a three dimensional model in a computer. The digital design is created by using 3D modeling software, computer-aided design (CAD), or generated with a 3D scanner. Once a 3D model or copy has been created it needs to be prepared in order to be used by the printer like here at 3d printing Canada.
This is known as slicing where the 3D model is divided into thousands and up to millions of horizontal layers using slicing software. Some applications may need an additional slicing tool.
Once the model has been sliced, the information can be uploaded into the printer via SD, USB, or Wi-Fi, depending on the type of 3D printer, ready to print the object layer by layer.
3D Printing Industry
The 3D printing industry can be divided into a host of different applications including consumer goods, industrial goods, High Tech goods, Healthcare goods, and many more.
The Future of 3D Printing
Presently 3D Printing is widely used in engineering, science, architecture, entertainment, education, the medical field, and aerospace. Technically there are already many changes in 3D printing including 3D printed food, internal organs, human body parts, as well as new print materials such as ABS, PLA, wood, metallic print, and even glass. Researchers and engineers are daily creating additional features for 3D printing applications.
As new innovations come out on a daily basis, experts say that 3D printing could become a 4 billion dollar industry by the year 2023. Even though the price of printers will decrease, the quality will improve along with numerous new features.
Some significant changes in 3D printing in the foreseeable future include:
– 3D print shop at the local store where you can purchase goods and have them printed in a few minutes.
– School children and university students learning to create objects and build their own 3D printers.
– 3D technology in the medical field will be able to save lives and 3D printers will become extremely important as medical equipment in hospitals.
– 3D printers will become the source of huge cost savings for many industries.
– Soon 3D printers will exist in every home, just like the personal computer.