Gone are the days when you used to tuck papers in your black-n-white printer to get your resume printed. Well, I mean those printers are still in use, and very much in! However, things have taken a huge leap and the trend today, and perhaps the days to come, is that of a 3D printer!
What’s 3D printing?
Somewhat different from what we commonly known as “printing”… 3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. 3D printing is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. 3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques (subtractive processes) which mostly rely on the removal of material by drilling, cutting etc.
3D printing is usually performed using a materials printer, and since 2003 there has been large growth in the sales of these machines. Additionally, the cost of 3D printers has gone down. The technology also finds use in the fields of jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many others.
Technologies behind 3D printing:
There are several technologies. All those available as of 2012 were additive, differing mainly in the way layers are built to create parts. Some melt or soften material to produce layers (SLS, FDM), while others lay liquid materials thermosets that are cured with different technologies. Lamination systems cut thin layers to shape and join them together.
|Additive technologies||Base materials|
|Selective laser sintering (SLS)||Thermoplastics, metals powders, ceramic powders|
|Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS)||Almost any alloy metal|
|Fused deposition modeling (FDM)||Thermoplastics, eutectic metals|
|Laminated object manufacturing (LOM)||Paper, foil, plastic film|
|Electron beam melting (EBM)||Titanium alloys|
|Powder bed and inkjet head 3d printing
Plaster-based 3D printing (PP)
|Plaster, Colored Plaster|
3D printers makes what?
While the world is busy creating various other products in 3D printers, while the more serious types include applications like design visualization, prototyping/CAD, metal casting, architecture, education, geospatial, healthcare and entertainment/retail and other applications would include reconstructing fossils in paleontology, replicating ancient and priceless artifacts in archaeology, reconstructing bones and body parts in forensic pathology and reconstructing heavily damaged evidence acquired from crime scene investigations…let’s look at few interesting stuffs even a layman can try and understand the worth of 3D printing…
1. Plastic Lincoln Logs - Most 3-D printer operators advise that your first project should be a cube to test machine calibration. If you're impatient and want to jump right into printing more complex objects, start with plastic Lincoln Logs. You'll know you're printing with consistency if your fort snaps together with ease.
2. Bracelet - Who says geeks can't be stylish? Print a bracelet for three reasons. First, it tests that your machine is well-tuned and can print objects with thin walls. Second, it's amazing to see rigid plastic stretch before your eyes. Finally, it's a great last-minute gift for your sweetheart or for your mom.
3. Birdhouse - Things you print don't have to be final products – think in terms of parts. The most interesting projects often combine plastic parts with other materials. This ingenious birdhouse attaches a printed front end to a coffee can. RepRap project members print plastic components, combine them with metal rods and PCBs, and make more 3-D printers.
4. V8 engine - Hobbyist 3-D printers can't produce moving parts, but printed components can be assembled to create a functional object. This facsimile of a V8 engine demonstrates how various parts of an engine operate and shows a way to overcome the limitations of the machine.
5. DNA play set - You can glue and screw 3-D printed parts, but it's not the most elegant solution. Savvy designers will find a way to engineer parts so they can connect them more artfully with joints. For example, this DNA play set helps students understand and model connections in DNA. The printed parts have clever joints that leverage the plastic's intrinsic properties.
6. Cube Heart or Stephen Colbert's head - Gearing is the ultimate test of low-cost 3-D printers. If you can design parts that successfully mesh, the printer has done its job. The true test of artistry is turning utilitarian gears into wholes, like a cube, heart, or the ultimate challenge: Stephen Colbert's head.
7. Colored plastic filaments - One serious drawback of hobbyist 3-D printers like the MakerBot , RepRap, and Ultimaker is that they're monochromatic. Crafty designers have hacked the machines to print multiple colors by splicing colored plastic filaments. The creators of an Apple replica (courtesy Steve Jobs) calculated the quantity of color that would be required for each slice of the rainbow, cut the filament to length, and designed a 3-D logo that Steve Jobs would be proud of might not sneer at.
8. Fun model - Don't have the time, patience, or advanced geometry skills required to make the apple? Cut random lengths of bright filament, find a fun model, and click "build." No kid can resist a purple and yellow stegosaurus .
9. Shuttle - A shuttle replica is another giant step for mankind. Want to know how modern 3-D printers compare to existing production processes like injection molding? Try comparing the print to store-bought equivalents.
10. Full size vehicle – They say… "constraint" is just another word for "challenge." MakerBot operator Skimbal obliterated one challenge with his Pièce de résistance. His goal was to build a full-size RC vehicle based on Mario Kart Koopa shells. The Makerbot's constraints would have stymied a lesser designer, but by breaking the design into small parts, Skimbal created a large, multi-color object, where the resolution is barely noticeable. The project takes over 40 hours to complete, but it's like being able to print the Mona Lisa in your garage.