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3D Printing Technologies You Must Know

7 min read

Using 3D Printing you create a physical 3D object from a digital model or file of that object. 3D Printing, or sometimes called Additive Manufacturing,  typically involves putting down many progressive microscopically thin layers (16 to 180 microns) of the raw material to create a 3D model of any desired object from your imagination.

3d printing technologies

A 3D Print Head

Whichever technology you utilise, all 3D printers do the same job using a similar process of constructing the desired object layer by layer, transforming it into complex shapes.

3D Printing is presently accruing growth in numerous application areas such as fashion, medicinal research, toy making, automotive industry, aerospace modelling and various concept modelling ideas.

3D Printing Can Do Wonders!

Acquiring 3D modelling skills nowadays is comparatively more comfortable than previous years with new technological advancements coming up and storming the world now and then.

With 3D Printing, the only limitation is your imagination. You can use the technology in several application areas like medical science applications, bio-printing, fashion designing, toy making, jewellery designing, gadget making, art models, home décor items and much more.

You have to be prepared to invest effort, energy and a little time into mastering various functionalities and activities involved in 3D Printing of an object.

How to Begin?

First, put down the idea in pen and paper in the form of a simple sketch. You can also utilise different open-source and accessible software to do it. You can even think of:-

Hiring a 3D Modeller- No passion or time, don’t worry. Hire a 3D modeller to model something in 3D for you.

Designing It Yourself (DIY)- You can try designing the 3D model yourself. You can use free and open-source 3D modelling software such as Blender, Netfabb Basic, Tinkercad, SketchUp, BRL-CAD and many others to unleash your creativity.

Choice of Material

The material choice that you can use to create your 3D designs and models is plentiful. The option includes ceramic, resin, edible food product such as chocolate, plastic, sand etc. You can also use various combinations of materials and colours.

Colour Combination

The 3D printers available in the market let you use different combinations of colours and materials. Multi-layers of different colours and materials can be used to achieve a winsome and colourful effect.

Print Dimension

Well, it depends on your desired object of creation. Usually, 3D printers allow you to create smaller objects that are geared towards use by individual users.

In case you wish to create more significant objects, Rapid Prototyping machines are available that are generally used in fields of industrial applications such as designing aeroplanes and other objects of industrial use.

Time Taken to Print

It usually depends on the type of material used, the complexity of the design, and finishing required for your desired 3D model.

For instance, you might be a medical science researcher who wishes to create prosthetic limbs. The complexity and accuracy required to create such product shall increase the time to create the desired 3D model.

However, to create a toy for your child will only be a cakewalk.

3D Print Process Steps

3D Printing as a process is carried out in 3 significant steps.

First is defining and designing the 3D image of the desired object that you wish to print. One may utilise a 3D scanner or CAD software to do that. Alternatively, the other option is to download it online.

Second, you carry out actual Printing. Now, there are various types of raw materials that are available to be utilised in 3D Printing such as resins, plastics, ceramics, metals, textiles, glass, food material, biomaterials and even sand. Which material to use will depend on what object is required.

Third, you carry out the finishing of the object. During the initial steps of 3D Printing, the object is fragile and delicate. It cannot be straightaway delivered or used. Final finishing has to be done before it. The object can be lacquered, painted or sanded to achieve the finished product as the desired output.

3D Printing Technologies

What material we have chosen will dictate the type of printing technology or method we will adopt. Various technologies are available for 3D Printing such as plastic, wax and metal. Let’s go through the commonly used ones for different raw materials.

# 1 Plastic

# a) Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

An accessible and affordable method of 3d Printing, FDM is primarily used by individuals. The process involves melting of plastic strips and extrusion from the nozzle. The melted plastic while extruding is utilised to create successive layers to take a cross-sectional print of an object. The process gets repeated several times until the desired object is completed. The thickness of the coat is the parameter determining the quality of the 3D print.

# b) SLS Technology

The technique is also called Laser Sintering. It consists of melting layers of powder to fabricate the object. Interlocking and complex forms are created with Alumide or plastic by using this technique.

# 2 Wax or Resin

# a) Photopolymerisation

It is the technology used for wax or resin materials. It consists of the process of utilising UV light to carry out the solidification of photo-sensitive resin. Different 3D printing processes which use this technology are:

# b) Stereolithography (SLA)

The method uses curable photopolymer resin. The liquid polymer is exposed to UV light, and the object is constructed layer by layer. The process gets repeated until such time the final object as output is not created.

# c) Digital Light Processing (DLP)

In this technique, a projector is utilised for curing photopolymer resin. The method is quite similar to the SLA method except for using a light bulb in place of a UV laser for curing the photopolymer resin.

# d) Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP)

In this technique, an endless array of UV images is projected beneath a liquid resin bath via a UV-transparent but an oxygen-permeable window. The array is generated employing a digital light projector.

# e) MultiJet Printers

Here, UV laser light is used to cross-link a photopolymer. The process is quite similar to Stereolithography. It involves the use of exceptionally high-quality MultiJet and PolyJet 3D printers.

Small droplets of photopolymer are sprayed to create the first layer by the printer’s jet. No scanning of laser for curing layers is used. The printhead has a UV lamp that locks the shape by cross-linking the polymer.

#3 Metal

# a) DLP Method

In combination with lost-wax casting technique is utilised for Printing of objects with metallic material of Brass and Silver and others. First, a 3D print of a wax model is taken. Then, a mould is cast around wax using the lost-wax casting technique. Later, before melting the wax, it is filled with silver to create the required object.

# b) Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

In this technique, sintering of metal is carried out by utilising laser as a power source. The metallic powder is aimed at using a laser, and then a layer by layer cross-sectional tracing of the desired object is finalised.

# c) Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

Here, instead of a laser, an electron beam is utilised as a power source to construct the 3D image of the desired object. The metallic powder gets melted layer by layer by the laser.

These are a few prevalent technologies which are used in 3D Printing nowadays.

The Bottom Line

The 3D printers available nowadays are incredibly user-friendly and easy to operate. However, you would require a little technical bent of mind and knack to bring forth your imagination and create a 3D model.

As soon as you understand the functionalities of CAD or other modelling software and you start building your 3D models, creating and shaping the physical environmental objects around you will no longer be a daunting or tedious task.

Trial and error shall undoubtedly help you become an expert as a 3D modeller. Unleash your creativity, test, experiment, and put your achieved skills to create the unimaginable.

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