How far can technology go? As far as one’s imagination it seems. The advancement in technology today leads many people to enjoy the convenience and ease it brings. Every year, a new technological idea is presented to the public and one of them even makes one’s dream into a reality, thanks to a machine called 3D Printer.
History of 3D Printing :-
SLA-1, the first 3D printer invented by Chuck Hull in 1983
Chuck Hull invented the first 3D printing process called ‘stereolithography’ in 1983. In a patent, he defined stereolithography as ‘a method and apparatus for making solid objects by successively “printing” thin layers of the ultraviolet curable material one on top of the other’. This patent only focuses on ‘printing’ with a light curable liquid, but after Hull founded the company ‘3D Systems’, he soon realized his technique was not limited to only liquids, expanding the definition to ‘any material capable of solidification or capable of altering its physical state’. With this, he built the foundation of what we now know today as additive manufacturing (AM) – or 3D printing.
What is 3D Printing?
3D Printing is a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material. It brings a digital object (its CAD representation) into its physical form by adding layer by layer of materials.
Why is it called printing?
If you look closely (with a microscope) at a page of text from your home printer, you’ll see the letters don’t just stain the paper, they’re actually sitting
slightly on top of the surface of the page.
In theory, if you printed over that same page a few thousand times, eventually the ink would build up enough layers on top of each other to create a solid 3D model of each letter. That idea of building a physical form out of tiny layers is how the first 3D printers worked.
How does 3D Printing Work ?
There are 3 main steps in 3D printing.
The first step is the preparation just before printing, when you design a 3D file of the object you want to print. This 3D file can be created using CAD software , with a 3D scanner or simply downloaded from an online marketplace. Once you have checked that your 3D file is ready to be printed , you can proceed to the second step.
The second step is the actual printing process. First, you need to choose which material will best achieve the specific properties required for your object. The variety of materials used in 3D printing is very broad. It includes plastics, ceramics, resins, metals, sand, textiles, biomaterials, glass, food and even lunar dust! Most of these materials also allow for plenty of finishing options that enable you to achieve the precise design result you had in mind, and some others, like glass for example, are still being developed as 3D printing material and are not easily accessible yet.
The third step is the finishing process. This step requires specific skills and materials. When the object is first printed, often it cannot be directly used or delivered until it has been sanded, lacquered or painted to complete it as intended.
3D Printing Applications :-
- Medical and Dental
- Art / Design / Sculpture
3D Printing Benefits :-
3D printing processes allow for mass customisation — the ability to personalize products according to individual needs and requirements. Even within the same build chamber, the nature of 3D printing means that numerous products can be manufactured at the same time according to the end-users requirements at no additional process cost.
The advent of 3D printing has seen a proliferation of products (designed in digital environments), which involve levels of complexity that simply could not be produced physically in any other way. While this advantage has been taken up by designers and artists to impressive visual effect, it has also made a significant impact on industrial applications, whereby applications are being developed to materialize complex components that are proving to be both lighter and stronger than their predecessors. Notable uses are emerging in the aerospace sector where these issues are of primary importance.
For industrial manufacturing, one of the most cost-, time- and labour-intensive stages of the product development process is the production of the tools. For low to medium volume applications, industrial 3D printing — or additive manufacturing — can eliminate the need for tool production and, therefore, the costs, lead times and labour associated with it. This is an extremely attractive proposition, that an increasing number or manufacturers are taking advantage of. Furthermore, because of the complexity advantages stated above, products and components can be designed specifically to avoid assembly requirements with intricate geometry and complex features further eliminating the labour and costs associated with assembly processes.
Sustainable / Environmentally Friendly :
3D printing is also emerging as an energy-efficient technology that can provide environmental efficiencies in terms of both the manufacturing process itself, utilising up to 90% of standard materials, and, therefore, creating less waste, but also throughout an additively manufactured product’s operating life, by way of lighter and stronger design that imposes a reduced carbon footprint compared with traditionally manufactured products.