How do 3D printers work?

The 3D printing is the buzzword in the printing industry. The new technology will really change the printing landscape in a broader sense. But what is 3D printing and how does it work is the real question. We will explain what is 3D printing and its advantages in detail.

3D printer
3D printer

The 3D printing is basically a process of fusing together materials layer-by-layer using computer-aided design. As a result, the final product is a 3D solid object of a digital image. It is an additive process and it is most successful for rapid prototyping.

The 3D printing technology opens new doors in printing. An object of any size, shape, and geometry can be recreated using a 3D model designed on a computer using various software. Fused deposit modeling is a common technology utilized in the 3D printing process.

How does 3D printing work?

The 3D printing starts with the creation of a 3D model using computer software. We can use a 3D scanner to create a three-dimensional digital copy of an object. The use of design software like CAD is also common as you can correct errors before printing. You can also use a digital camera and photo processing software for modeling 3D objects.

The CAD models are generally stored in STL (stereolithography file format). This is a default format for CAD files. However, it has a very large file size and hence, not particularly suitable for 3D printing. Hence, a new file format called AMF (Additive Manufacturing File Format) came into existence. It is tailored file format just for 3D printing objects.

Furthermore, before printing the STL files, they first undergo checking, for errors. Generally, these file formats have some errors. During STL file generation, a repair step corrects most of the errors. After correction of error, the STL file then goes through the software called slicer.

The slicer then converts the 3D model into a series of thin layers and produce G-code file. The G-code file has all the instructions for the 3D printer to print the object. The 3D printer then prints the object. The additive system for 3D printing takes less time than any traditional method.

The overall finish of the product is great. However, some bigger objects may need finishing using a different technique like chemical vapor process.

The 3D printing process

This kind of printing involves additive processes. There are different kinds of additive process. Largely, all this process varies in the way layers are laid down while printing. The cost of the printer varies with speed, material choice, and color production capability.

The material melts and flows through an extrusion nozzle head. Then this nozzle head lays the material layer-by-layer in a stream. The material then hardens immediately to form an object. In general, the printers work from bottom to top to create the object. This is one process. There are many such processes with different materials and different ways for laying down the layers of material.

Advantages of 3D printing

This kind of printing opens up new possibilities as the objects can be printed from digital images. Hence, it will affect almost every industry. The most important and current advantage is fast prototyping. The second advantage is the fast manufacturing of custom objects. It will also speed up the automation.

The aviation and automotive manufacturers can 3D print the parts as per the demand. As a result, they can save the cost and maintain consistent quality. The construction of the entire house is also possible using 3D printing. Soon, an entire house is ready to print and many companies are working on it.

Some medical supplies like implants are now manufactured using a 3D printing technique. The consumer products like furniture, toys, lights etc. can be simply printed. Hence, you can print almost everything using a 3D printer.

The future of 3D printing

The immense potential in 3D printing will change every industry in the world. With consumer-friendly 3D printers, even the users can print certain objects at home. You need the right digital file and you just need to print it; that’s it. It sounds crazy but it is happening and it will change the entire manufacturing world for sure.

Image courtesy: Maker Bot  Video courtesy: Mashable

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