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A 3D printer creates an object based on data, which is uploaded to a program and made into three dimensions. It works by stacking layers on top of each other in order to create the final product. The 3D model of the object is created on the computer with software called CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and printed out. It is not a printer in the sense we know it; it is more like an oven with many arms that prints one layer.

 Different materials can be used in 3D printing, including plastic, metal, and concrete. It can be expensive, but some companies are trying to come up with cost-effective solutions. There are 3D printers that build objects part by part instead of building the object all at once. One of the main problems with 3D printers is the complexity of prints, which makes printing more affordable and less time-consuming.

How Does It Work?

3D printing is about producing three-dimensional solid objects. In this context, a printer works by building an object one thin layer at a time. You can think of a 3D printer as a sort of glue gun — the difference is that it lays down successive layers in order to form the object, rather than extruding glue. When you use a 3D printer, you’ll need to first create or download an STL file, or stereolithographic file. This is what a 3D printer uses as its “blueprint.” An STL file is an easy-to-use, portable format for defining the solid geometry of 3D printable parts in computer-aided design (CAD) software.

3D printing can produce prototypes or final products such as street furniture. These printers can use a variety of materials from plastic to metal to wood fibre and concrete. The most popular type of 3D printer is an “additive” machine that creates objects layer by layer. These machines can produce almost any shape out of any material. Depending on your needs, 3D printing is fast and efficient and can produce large structures. 3D printing allows you to fabricate parts that wouldn’t be possible any other way, like using acrylic plastics or nylon for functional designs or resin and wax for jewellery. And since these parts can be made with minimal labour costs, they can often be made more affordably and quickly than traditionally machined parts.

Materials For 3D Printing

There are a variety of 3D printing materials, including thermoplastics, metals (including powders), resins and ceramics.

History Of 3D Printing

The earliest types of 3D printing started before the invention of 3D printers. A few years prior, the first 3D printer was invented by Hideo Kodama at Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute, Japan. His two additive methods made it possible to manufacture 3D models. These were updated and improved by Chuck Hull later on when he invented the stereolithography process. Hull is usually credited with inventing the first 3D printer he produced in 1987 and called the Stereo-Plot. 

Examples Of 3D Printing

  1. Consumer products (eyewear, footwear, design, furniture)
  2. Industrial products (manufacturing tools, prototypes, fun
  3. Dental products
  4. Prosthetics
  5. Architectural scale models & maquettes
  6. Reconstructing fossils
  7. Replicating ancient artefacts
  8. Reconstructing evidence in forensic pathology
  9. Movie props

3D Printing Terminologies

There are three broad types of 3D printing technology; sintering, melting, and stereolithography.

  1. Sintering: This involves melting together small particles of material to make an object; this is actually how food gets printed at the moment. Sintering happens when layers of raw powder are stacked on top of one another and a laser beam heats them. The next layer is melted and the process is repeated for every layer. Layer by layer, the object comes to life.  
  2. Melting: This is achieved by using an electron beam to heat a polymer, then printing the liquefied material. This uses lasers, electric arcs or electron beams to print objects by melting the materials together.
  3. Stereolithography: This involves using a UV laser or another light source to cure photopolymers and solidify them into the desired shape. It uses a higher amount of light until it hardens the molten resin. It’s a bit more expensive, however, and is used only for prototypes.

Advantages Of 3D Printing

  1. 3D printing allows for production to begin without costly tooling, which is helpful for small businesses or startups on a budget. 
  2. It enables the creation of a wide variety of bespoke items, at scale, at a low cost.
  3. 3D printing is instrumental in the medical field, where it allows for a variety of treatments and customisation. You can manufacture complex parts, and you can make customised parts at a lower cost.
  4. It also makes life easier for companies to rely on this to create prototypes at an affordable price.
  5. 3D printing can be cheaper than traditional manufacturing, and you can produce a prototype in hours rather than months. 

Disadvantages Of 3D Printing

It is true 3D printing has drawbacks too, but most of these come from the fact that it’s a new technology. New technologies always have flaws, but they also usually improve rapidly over time. 

  1. Although 3D printing has the advantage of being scalable, which gives it an edge over other manufacturing techniques, it also becomes as expensive as traditional manufacturing when scaled up. One drawback, in particular, is that this technology can be costly if you print items in high volume. You’ll need to cover the costs for time and material when producing a large order.
  2. It can be challenging to build large objects because not all printers can print something as large as a house. It can also be ineffective to use layer by layer, which is how 3D printing usually works. Some items aren’t suitable for this printing method due to their complex shapes.
  3. It is difficult to find a 3D printer that is both fully manual and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to own. 3D printers also tend to use costly resins that aren’t recyclable. 
  4. There are far too many technical errors that can occur when using 3D printing. The printing process is also slow and noisy. 
  5. 3D printing is a great technology, but it cannot be relied on for all. It will take many years for the technology to become cheap and accurate enough for 3D printing to be mainstream.

Conclusion

3D printing allows items to be built from a virtual model. You can print them in three dimensions for real. It also uses less material than traditional methods, so it’s better for the environment and your wallet. 3D printing is a fascinating technology used for creating designs and prototypes. It doesn’t have a lot of practical applications yet, but it holds huge potential to disrupt a lot of different industries. Because 3D printers haven’t been around for very long, they are susceptible to substantial technological advances in the future. Companies that utilise their 3D printers to provide business services are ahead of the curve in leveraging 3D Printing as a marketing strategy and for streamlining their office and production processes.

Do you know about 3D printers? Are they a fad or the future? How do you feel about them? We would love to hear your opinion on it. 

Amaka Odozi

Author Amaka Odozi

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