Printing is a process that most of the people are already familiar with. We just make use of a printer, and get stuff printed in 2 dimensions on the paper. But did you ever imagine the concept of 3D printing? Well, it’s not just a concept, but a reality now, with many of the products and objects being built through 3D printing, instead of traditional manufacturing processes.
In this article, we are going to talk about 3D printing. We will explore what is 3D printing, how it works, and the software, and also we will talk about some applications of 3D printing. So, let’s dive into the world of 3D printing!
What is 3D printing?
Well, most of you might be already familiar with the good old concept of printing, which we have been practicing for years, from printing information to designs to even house blueprints. But when it comes to 3D printing, it is something that is revolutionary has a number of applications, and is growing.
3D printing can be understood as a process, in which a digital file is used for creating a 3 – Dimensional Solid Object. In this 3D printing process, sequential layers of material are laid down by the 3D printer, until the object creation is done. The 3D printing is also called as Additive Manufacturing. Later on, we will understand how 3D printing is done in greater detail.
3D printing is not just a concept, but a reality now, being used in many places, in order to print many objects, things, and even houses, and buildings. I am not joking, if you want you can explore the houses and the buildings being manufactured with 3D printing. Many startups and companies have been using this technology.
How does 3D printing work?
Now, some of you might be wondering how does this 3D printing work? Well, we will not go into much technicalities of the technology, but let’s understand it in layman’s terms.
3D printing is also called additive manufacturing, and in simple words, you can understand this as if the 3D printer places layer after layer of the material until the desired object or thing is “Printed”. Each layer printed by the printed can be considered as a finely sliced cross-section of the thing being “Printed”.
3D printing enables consumers to be able to produce complex shapes and structures without consuming much material in comparison to traditional manufacturing methods.
Here, we are NOT cutting out any material using the machinery, which happens in subtractive manufacturing. Instead, in additive manufacturing, the layers of the material are stacked and fused. There can be many different advantages of 3D printing from different angles, about which we will try to talk later.
Please understand that the above explanation is in layman’s terms, and there are some different types of 3D printing processes, and each works quite differently. Later on, you can explore and dive deeper into the concept, if you are interested in this.
Types of 3D printing
Diving deep into the world of 3D printing, let’s try to understand about some different types of 3D printing processes and techniques. First of all, let’s list out the different types, and then we will explore each type one by one, in quite greater detail.
- VAT Photopolymerization.
- Binder Jetting.
- Powder Bed Fusion.
- Material Extrusion.
- Direct Energy Deposition.
- Sheet Lamination.
- Material Jetting.
Now that we have listed some of the types of 3D printing processes, let’s have a brief look at them one by one –
In simple words, we can understand this process as a process, where photopolymer resin is exposed to certain wavelengths of light and then it becomes solid. The additive manufacturing processes like Stereolithography(SLA), Direct Light Processing, and Continuous Direct Light Processing come under the category of VAT Photopolymerization.
In Stereolithography, the object being printed is created by selectively curing a polymer resin layer by layer, using an Ultra Violet laser beam, making it a hardened plastic.
Digital Light Processing is somewhat similar to SLA but uses a digital light projector screen to flash a single image of each layer at once.
Continuous Digital Light Processing is very similar to DLP, but it is dependent on the upward motion of the build plate.
Overall, the VAT photopolymerization process is a great choice for most of the jewelry and medical applications, due to the fine details and smooth finishing done.
Like many other 3D printing technologies, Binder Jetting doesn’t require heat. Binder Jetting can be considered as an additive manufacturing process, in which, an industrial printhead selectively deposits a binding adhesive agent into the thin material layers.
Powder Bed Fusion
Powder Bed Fusion(PBF) technology uses a heat source to bring fusion between the particles of plastic or metal powder one layer at a time. The processes like Selective Layer Sintering(SLS), Multi Jet Fusion(MJF), and Electron Beam Melting(EBM) all come under this category. Even the 3D metal printing processes like Selective Laser Melting, and Direct Metal Laser Sintering(DMLS) also use the Powder Bed Fusion for selectively binding the metal particles.
The material Extrusion process is very simple and straightforward to understand. The Material Extrusion technique can be simply understood as a process, in which the material is squeezed through a nozzle onto the build plate layer after layer. Fused Deposition Modeling(FDM) falls under this category, and it is one of the most widely used technologies in the world of 3D printing.
Direct Energy Deposition
Direct Energy Deposition, or DED, is a 3D printing method, in which, a focused energy source, like a Plasma Arc, laser, or electron beam is used to melt the material being simultaneously deposited by the nozzle.
The Laser Engineered Net Shape (LENS) and Electron Beam Additive Manufacture(EBAM) fall under this category.
Sheet Lamination can be simply understood as an Additive manufacturing Methodology, where the thin sheets of material are bonded together layer by layer, in order to form a single piece that is cut into a 3D object. There are some different types of laminations to choose from, like bonding, ultrasonic welding, or brazing.
The Material Jetting technology uses ultraviolet (UV) light or heat to harden the metals, photopolymers, or wax, building the parts one layer at a time. Other types of Material Jetting include NanoParticle Jetting and Drop On Demand.
Best 3D Printing Software
The world of 3D printing is more dense than it appears. It is highly dependent on Software in many phases, from designing the output to controlling the 3D printer. So, another obvious thing that you might want to know is the best software you can use for 3D printing. There are many options for Software related to 3D printing, but we will talk about some software here.
So, let’s check out some of the best 3D printing Software. Please note that the order in which the software is arranged does not define their ranking. The order is completely random, and we are not in any way ranking the software. First of all, let’s have a quick list of the software that we are going to talk about –
- Ultimaker Cura
- Shapr3D CAD modeling
Now that we have created a list of some of the software in 3D printing, let’s have a quick discussion about them one by one –
Simply you can understand that the Tinkercad is a free, browser-based tool, that allows the users to design 3D Models and can be considered as a good starting point for practicing solid modeling. The amazing feature of Tinkercad is that you get an easy-to-use block-building feature, which makes it even easier to form models using basic shapes.
You can even find a number of tutorials and guides explaining how to create shapes and models on Tinkercad. It also features direct integration with third-party printing services, which is even more useful.
This tool is a free, open-source, and easy-to-use tool that is suitable to use for beginners, as well as advanced users. This tool has many different much-needed features and can be used for 3D modeling very easily. Along with this, it can be also used for animations, simulations, rendering, video editing, and even motion tracking.
You would need to learn about this software, but I won’t mention this as the downside, because in order to use any software or technology effectively, it is important for us to learn properly about it.
Rhinoceros 3D or Rhino, or Rhino 3D, is a CAD (Computer-aided Design) software, used primarily in jewelry design, industrial design, and even architectural trades. It helps a lot in various phases, from rapid prototyping to production. It can be operated on Microsoft Windows Operating System, as well as in the Mac OS.
This software requires a license for use and also provides a free trial of the full software version.
This MatterControl is an all-in-one slicer, printer host, and CAD Software, which is available on Desktop, using which, the users can create new models in the CAD section, and slice them. When your model is ready to print, you can use the MatterControl to directly monitor and print via USB connection or over Wi-Fi.
Actually, MatterControl is a free, open-source software package, which allows users to design, prepare, and manage their 3D prints.
Ultimaker Cura is an easy-to-use, and free 3D printing software, which is used by millions of users. This software is feature-rich software and can be very easily used. It is available for download on Windows, MacOS, and Linux as well. It is very easy to use for the beginners.
Fusion360, by Autodesk, is one of the best software for 3D printing. It is one of the first cloud CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB software platforms. There is a free trial available for this software, but you need to pay for the license on a yearly basis, or on the basis of the offer. It has some built–in capabilities to perform 3D modeling and simulation, which can be handy for many professionals working in the world of 3D modeling.
3D printing applications
Now that we have explored much about 3D printing, and its different types of processes, now it’s time to discuss some very real applications in the world of 3D printing. Let’s first list some of the applications, and then we will try to go through them one by one.
Actually, there are many advantages of 3D printing in different angles, due to which, it has gained a lot of popularity in this time. Let’s explore some of the applications now –
- Quick Prototyping and manufacturing.
Now that we have listed some of the 3D printing applications, let’s try to dive deeper to some extent into the applications, one by one –
The field of Construction has experienced a great usage of 3D printing technology in many different phases and works. It is used as a way to create faster and cheaper structures. If in case you are not familiar, entire houses can be printed using 3D printers, and along with this, 3D printing technologies can be employed for usage in many different use cases related to construction.
Example uses of 3D printing are as mentioned –
- Quick Prototyping
In the sector of health care as well, 3D printing is being used a lot in different areas of applications related to healthcare. Especially in the dental field, 3D printing is very helpful in creating some patterns for casting dental crowns and manufacturing tools.
Along with this, 3D printing is also helpful in creating knee and hip implants and patient-specific items, like prosthetics and hearing aids, and it can be further improved and extended to other organs as well.
In the aerospace industry, 3D printing technology is used for quick prototyping and product development. It is particularly very helpful in aircraft development. Many different non-critical components for aircraft are even made as 3D printed for the flights.
In the automotive sector as well, 3D printing is used a lot in the areas of quick prototyping and development, and even for manufacturing several components. The field is being explored to an even greater extent, but it includes many different applications in different areas. It also includes the racing automobiles.
Quick Prototyping and manufacturing
As it can be understood from the concept of 3D printing, it makes the prototyping and manufacturing of stuff very easy, and quick. This allows fastening the process of research and development in the particular areas of study.
Advantages of 3D printing
3D printing can be a game-changing concept and technology for many different areas of the industry. There are many different advantages of 3D printing, due to which, many industries choose to use 3D printing, and it is revolutionizing many different things that are otherwise being done traditionally today. Here are some of the advantages of 3D printing –
- Rapid Prototyping
- Faster Manufacturing
- Printing on Demand(Instead of Stocking Up)
- Faster design and production.
- Wastage is minimized.
As you can see from above, there are many different advantages of 3D printing in various areas of development and manufacturing. If you are someone who relates to design, research, development, or manufacturing units, you might want to try 3D printing as an option for fastening the process overall.
FAQ’s about 3D printing
Ans: 3D printing can be considered as a process, in which a digital file is used for creating a 3-dimensional solid Object. In this 3D printing process, sequential layers of material are laid down by the 3D printer, until the object creation is done.
Ans: Broadly classifying, 3D printing is categorized into 7 types, which are as follows – VAT Photopolymerization, Binder Jetting, Powder Bed Fusion, Material Extrusion, Direct Energy Deposition, Sheet Lamination, Material Jetting.
Ans: The SLA printer was invented by Charles Hull.