3D printing or additive manufacturing (AM printing), as it’s also known, is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file or command. 3D printers can be used to print toys, iPhone cases, musical instruments, jewelry, and much more.
Many different types of additive manufacturing printing technologies use different methods for this process, but usually, each type works with its own unique industry standards so that additive manufacturing can 3D print the same three-dimensional object with different technologies.
AM printing is incredibly beneficial because it can be used to 3D print complex objects without requiring large factory machines. Additive manufacturing has been around for three decades but was only recently introduced to the public in order to aid the process of creating physical 3D printed objects.
How Does a 3D Printer Work?
A 3D printer works in the same way as many commercial two-dimensional inkjet printers but instead of ink, it lays down lines of plastic or metal dust onto a print bed in order to create an object. printing is known by several names including AM printing, additive manufacturing and 3D modeling.
These printers are also called rapid prototyping machines because they work quickly and cheaply at creating prototypes of new products.
What Is The Process of 3D Printing?
There are many different types of layer by layer, additive manufacturing printing technologies. However, there are different methods to accomplish this process, and each technology works with its own unique industry standards so that three-dimensional printers from one company can be used with designs from another company.
Additive manufacturing has 3 primary parts which are the:
- printer nozzle
- printer bed
- and the printing platform
AM printing begins when the printer creates an object with its printing nozzle by heating a selection of thermoplastic or metal powders.
AM printing techniques include material extrusion, where the printer uses a printing nozzle and filament to print objects in layers from the bottom up. Object creation by material extrusion is one of the most popular printing techniques.
Printing software, known as the 3D model file, must be created with a computer-aided design (CAD) program for example before it can be printed by a 3D printer. This file describes the precise specifications of a 3D object and is used to create an STL or AMF file that is compatible with a particular printer.
Some three-dimensional printers use 3D object slicing to direct and arrange 3D parts in 3D space before the additive manufacturing printing stage.
This 3D slicing project takes 3-dimensional models as an input, processes them, and produces a 3-dimensional model that contains data for printer coordinates. These printers coordinates are used by the printer to create physical 3D printed objects from 3-dimensional models.
Slicing is particularly effective for complicated designs or 3-dimensional models with many features because it breaks the 3D model down into more manageable chunks before printing.
You can even 3D print from a Chromebook these days!
Rapid Prototyping & Rapid Manufacturing
Three-dimensional printers are also called rapid prototyping machines because they work quickly and cheaply at creating prototypes of new products. AM printing is a clean and rapid manufacturing process that doesn’t require hazardous chemicals to create complex objects.
AM Printing uses less material by printing in layers and stacking them on top of each other until the final 3D printed object is complete.
Additive manufacturing use less material by printing in layers and stacking them on top of each other until the final 3D printed object is complete. Additive manufacturing are also called rapid prototyping machines because they work quickly and cheaply at creating prototypes of new products.
What do 3D printers use for printing materials?
3D printing materials such as ABS, PLA (Polylactic acid), HDPE (high-density polyethylene), nylon, printing wax, printing resin, 3D printed plasticine model magic and even 3D bioprinted cells. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) – ABS material is tough, strong and can handle high temperatures.
HDPE material is ideal for printing engineering-use designs since this thermoplastic has great durability and strength when 3D printed. PLA printing filament is an environmentally friendly printing material made from renewable resources like corn starch, tapioca products, and sugarcane.
3D print resins are the only additive manufacturing printing materials that can produce full colored 3D printed items, such as vases or other glassware. But there are issues of toxicity when 3D printing resin.
Printing wax is a popular material choice for 3D models which will be cast after printing because it’s easy to carve into and does not stick to molds during casting.
What are the benefits of 3D printing?
- Speed is a benefit when printing through a three-dimensional printer since physical prototypes can be created in hours instead of weeks. Especially compared with traditional manufacturing methods. Another benefit to printing is rapid prototyping which allows companies to test new products with less time and money wasted on design flaws. Designers also have the ability to create complex shapes and designs that would not be made possible by conventional manufacturing processes.
- Cost is also a benefit to three-dimensional printing because it provides a faster and more affordable alternative to other manufacturing methods. Finally, the biggest benefit to printing is that since printers are computer-controlled, they can be easily programmed to self-replicate or print digital designs for mass production. The process of making identical items is called Rapid Tooling and allows companies to take their manufacturing to a whole new level. As well, the electricity cost isn’t much, either.
- Customization is a benefit to three-dimensional printing since items created using these printers can be tailored to individual needs and preferences. (Read about how big these 3D printers can print!)
- Design freedom is a benefit to three-dimensional printing because it allows designers to create objects that would not be possible with other manufacturing methods.
- There is reduced risk in three-dimensional printing because it allows designers to test new designs with less time and money wasted on design flaws.
Pros & Cons
The pros of 3D Printing include
- 3D modeling software is widely available to the public- it’s easy to create your own consumer product, or even more complex designs.
- 3D printer services are also widely available and inexpensive, especially when compared to traditional manufacturing. Check some of our favorite large format 3D printing services.
- It is possible to create highly customized individual pieces of art or machine parts due to 3D printing, which would otherwise be impossible to mass-produce.
- 3D Printing is a clean manufacturing process that doesn’t require hazardous chemicals to create complex objects.
- 3D Printing can reduce waste.
- 3d printers use less material by printing in layers and stacking them on top of each other until the final 3d printed object is complete
The cons of 3D printing include:
- Cost per piece can be expensive depending on how much labor you want to invest into your product. 3D printing services often have a minimum fee per print.
- 3D printers are not able to produce many types of materials such as metal, ceramic or liquid. 3D printers can only 3d print in solid form.
- 3d printed objects tend to be less durable than their traditional counterparts and are more likely to crack or break. 3D printing is a new process that requires materials and techniques to be developed, so 3D printed objects are not long-lasting.
- 3D printers can only create solid objects in very specific shapes and sizes. 3D printers cannot produce organic 3-dimensional shapes such as spheres or other complex three-dimensional models with depth. 3D printers also cannot 3d print structures that require interlocking parts or 3D printers.
- 3D printing is not environmentally friendly because 3D printing often requires 3D printing filament that is made of oil. 3D printers also require 3D printer ink which can be toxic and the 3D printer itself is made 3D printing plastic or metal. This 3d printer plastic and 3d printer metal are often melted together to create 3D printer 3d printed products which create 3D printing fumes that are harmful for 3D printer 3d printing operators and 3d printers.
- It takes some know-how to deal with common issues you can frequently confront like dealing with rough surface 3D print first layers, 3D printing line width challenges, 3d printer stringing, 3D printing adhesion problems, and 3D printers that stop extruding mid-print.
The three most common 3D printers
These are the most common types of 3d printers, but there are many more as well:
- Stereolithography (SLA): This printing technology uses a 3D model file and ultraviolet light to 3D print the 3D object. The design is placed into a container that has liquid photopolymer plastic which solidifies when exposed to UV light, leaving only the shape of the 3D model.
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): This is printing that 3D prints a 3D object using a high-power laser to print the 3D object in quick, successive layers. The 3D design is placed into powder which is then fused together by a laser beam. This print method allows for printing an object with properties similar or equal to metal 3D printed objects.
- Fused Deposition Modeling Printers (FDM): This works by melting existing thermoplastic filaments or wired feedstock to form layers until the three-dimensional printed item has been completed.
How to Choose a Desktop 3D Printing Technology
Stereolithography, Selective Laser Sintering and Fused Deposition Modeling are some of the basic technologies used in printing. Technological advances continue to improve the capabilities and quality of desktop printers.
This means that today’s affordable printer is capable of producing high-quality objects with fine enough resolution for many applications. Here are some things you should consider before buying an additive manufacturing printer:
- What will be the use for additive manufacturing? Generally, this printer is good for both small and large-scale projects.
- What do you need from your new machine? Pay attention to the AM printer’s specifications and features. Ensure that you have a machine with sufficient build volume, printing resolution and filament type.
- Do I Need a CAD program? You can 3D print with or without a CAD program. There are many free and paid software packages that allow you to design your own 3D models.
- What is the cost of AM printing? It can be expensive to make multiple 3D prints, especially if you are using a more professional machine. However, printing is getting cheaper and faster as the technology advances.
- How much space do I need? You will need to dedicate some space in your home or office for storing the printer. Consider buying a smaller 3D printer because they are usually more space-efficient.
How to use a 3D printer in your home
Friends and family members can be used in order to help with the design process if needed. In addition, it is possible for beginners to make their own 3D models using online tutorials available through YouTube.
3D printing machines are becoming very popular across homes, schools and businesses worldwide for many different reasons including manufacturing processes, prototyping new designs and other applications. Desktop additive manufacturing printers are expected to see significant growth over the next few years.
It is worth noting that AM printing can be used in order to manufacture various types of objects by using plastic or resin. Allowing the individual to create and technically manufacture in small quantities from home, allowing growth to small businesses. Check out some cool 3D printing business ideas!
3D printing use cases & examples
- Automotive: printing is used in automotive manufacturing. Since 3D printers can print many small parts at once, manufacturers can easily test different designs for a new part until they find something that works. 3D printing magnets is an exciting area of opportunity.
- Aviation: AM printing is used in aircraft manufacturing, with 3D printed heat exchangers another interesting avenue.
- Aerospace and defense: A good example of this is the Boeing 777. It was the first commercial plane to have a major component, a fuselage panel, 3D printed
- Construction: printers can be used to build houses, construction and buildings.
- Dentistry: AM printing is used in dental labs to build customized crowns, bridges and dentures
- Prosthetics: printing is used to make prosthetic limbs, hands, and feet.
- Movie props: printers are being used to make movie props as well, even cosplay helmets.
- Fun: You can also just use your device for fun projects like 3D printed puzzles, printing Batman figurines, 3D printing soap molds, 3D printed dice, 3D printing wedding favors, and more.
Popular Consumer Products
- Sneakers: The big shoe companies are looking at printing as a method to customize 3D printed shoes for customers.
- Children’s glasses: Online companies like Warby Parker are using these printers to design and manufacture glasses.
- 3D printed food: The company BeeHex is using printers to make food. The first product made by the company is a chocolate printer called ChefJet. 3D printed fish is also becoming a reality and McDonald’s 3D printed burgers are soon becoming a reality, with 3D printed ribeye a delicious alternative!
- 3D printed houses: these printers are being used to build houses. For example, WinSun has 3D-printed homes for low-income families in China.
- 3D printed cars: Local Motors is a company that 3D printed a car called the Strati. The car has a chassis that is made out of carbon-fiber-reinforced ABS plastic.
- 3D printed bicycles: This is another interesting trend. It’s not just the bicycles themselves that are being made with this technology. A company called FFF3D has started providing services for customizing 3d printed bikes for children with disabilities.
- 3D printed furniture: Although some beginner 3D Printers may be capable of producing simple designs, you will need a high-quality 3D Printer in order to produce heavy-duty furniture projects.
- 3D printed art: 3D printing redefines the expression “art knows no borders”, proving that creativity and new technologies are compatible. The use of additive production allows artists the opportunity to take their creativity one step further. 3D printed sculptures are a great example!
- 3D printed soap molds is another fun home DIY project.
With 3D printing one is able to create custom or generic parts for the automotive industry, aviation, aerospace and defense, construction, even movie props with specific requests. In the dentist industry, printing can really come in handy as all items are usually required to be customized for the patients’ needs.
Prosthetics is another industry where customization is absolute and printing is useful. Printing in architecture has been around for a while now but new processes mean there is more room for creativity, including different-sized bricks or the creation of 3D printed walls for printing homes, printed tiles and 3D Printed panels.
The future of 3D Printing
3D printed anatomical models (like these 3D printed brains) have the potential to revolutionize medical training, rockets, patient care and surgical planning- even fun stuff like headphone stands and costumes. 3D bioprinting holds vast potential for new biomedical discoveries, applications in manufacturing, and regenerative medicine like 3D printing cartilage, 3D printing eyes, as well as 3D printing drugs.
Bioprinting is an emerging technology that combines printing and biomaterials such as cells and hydrogels to fabricate items. The future of AM printing– there’s great potential to create 3D printed food, as well as a variety of other applications.
3D bioprinting is a branch printing that involves the creation of tissue or organ constructs, like 3D printed bladders. Additive manufacturing printing in healthcare can also be used to repair, replace, or enhance human parts by using 3D scanned images as a base for 3D models- even crystals. 3D Printed food could include food such as chocolate, purees, pasta and even meat. Hell, we’re even seeing 3D printed bongs and 3D printed dab stations!
The most common 3D technology manufacturer is Stratasys Ltd (Israel), which manufactures fused deposition modeling units. These are low-cost systems that do not print very fast but are very cost-effective and 3D print with a large range of materials.
AM printing should be considered to improve the standard of living even further into the future. It is important to note that while three-dimensional printers are becoming more affordable, they still remain expensive for most consumers therefore AM printing is not recommended for consumer use at this moment in time. Additive manufacturing has been around for a very long time now.
AM printing has become more popular in the last 5 years and these printers are becoming cheaper to own as technology is improved each year. AM printing allows people to 3D print their own creations at home or work, or even sell them online.
AM printing will become cheaper over time and should become a household item within the next few years.3D printing allows people to make their own creations at home or work, or even sell them online.
Over time, more people will have access to 3D printers or companies offer 3D services such as creating 3D models from images and then offering this service out to consumers who wish to create their own products with this process being known as additive manufacturing also known as freeform fabrication.3D printing is changing the way we design products.
Modeling concepts can be 3D printed on-site without any additional costs of development within three hours after receiving the customer’s idea and product requirements, for example.
Additive Manufacturing printing should make life easier with its ability to change physical materials into anything you could possibly imagine.
How Much Do 3D Printers Cost?
Nowadays the price for 3D printers is either steady or declining, below are some models and price examples:
- “Ultimaker 2 Extended” costs around $2,000
- “Type A Machines Series 1” costs around $1,400
- “Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen” costs around $3,000
However, cost will vary depending on the features available. If you want to purchase a printer then it is recommended that you do your research first as certain AM printers may not be able to print with certain materials and even if they can you may run into compatibility issues.
If the price of a printer is not an issue, however, then the best way to decide which one to buy is by reading reviews and forums in order to gauge what the best option is for you.
So Should I Buy a 3D Printer?
For example, 3D printers aren’t recommended for consumer use as they can only print small items such as phone cases and figurines.
However, these printers can be used by schools, hospitals and government offices. And while it may be okay to buy this kind of printer for personal use, you should first figure out what exactly you will be using it for, and consider whether you know how to properly operate the printer before making a purchase.
It is important to note that additive manufacturing printers are still very expensive which means the average consumer shouldn’t seek out a printer as there are many other factors to consider such as:
- The machine being used for production
- The quality of the product
- The amount of time it takes to produce a product
- How often it will be used?
Remember, 3D printers are very different from Cricut machines!