What is 3D Printing?
The world of 3D printing is full of excitement and challenges. Although the technology is around for quite some time now, the practical application of 3D printing methods is still not found easily.
Not much information about 3D printing methods is available out there, but it is a reliable method that can be utilized for manufacturing high-end products with complicated designs.
There are many types of 3D printing processes like SLA – Stereolithography, FDM – Fused Deposition Modeling, SLS – Selective Laser Sintering, EBM – Electric Beam Melting, DMLS – Direct Metal Laser Sintering, LOM -laminated Object Manufacturing, EBM – Electron Beam Melting, DLP – Digital Light Processing, and BJ – Binder Jetting. The three most industrially applied 3D printing types are SLA, FDM, and SLS.
All the jargon and terminologies might make you feel that the process is very troublesome, but it is not. 3D printing methods are usually very trustworthy.
Today we’re going to have a detailed discussion on how 3D printing methods can help us manufacturing polymer parts.
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Types of 3D Printing –
- SLA – Stereolithography
- FDM – Fused Deposition Modeling
- SLS – Selective Laser Sintering
- DLP – Digital Light Processing
- BJ – Binder Jetting
SLA – Stereolithography –
SLA is also known as vat polymerization, is the oldest 3D printing method out there. It was invented by Chuck Hall in 1986 and later created a company named 3D system to capitalize it.
It works by layering together both the layers of photosensitive liquid and UV laser beam. The resin is solidified at the desired time, and the part is produced layer by layer. The polysynthetic resin material used can be transparent, standard, castable, and high temperature in type.
DLP printing type imitates the same SLA process but is slightly different from the photosensitive laser cures capitalizing digital projector and light.
The only downside of using SLA is the need for a solvent to rinse the product after printing. However, the finished product will be smoother and comes with finer features and details.
FDM – Fused Deposition Modelling –
FDM is also known as FFF – Fused Filament Fabrication, mainly uses material extrusion for printing. It uses an extrusion nozzle and a control system that makes the 3D printing process quite straightforward. The thermoplastic filament is heated and poured in X and Y coordinates as the object solidifies layer by layer in a Z direction.
Once a layer is complete, the printer begins the cycle the lays down another layer. The cycle is repeated, and the printer keeps laying layer by layer until the product is completely formed.
The current versions of FDM 3D printers are smaller and mobile, so they can be capitalized on by small and mid-sized firms to manufacture parts quickly and efficiently. Thermoplastic filaments like ABS, PET, PLA, NYLON, and TPA are advisable to use.
SLS – Selective Laser Sintering –
As the name suggests, SLS utilizes a laser to solidify thermoplastic nylon grains into a 3D object. The laser builds layers one by one as the build platform moves upside. It is repeated until the object is completed.
First of all, a bin of surface powder is heated to a temperature just below the polymer’s melting point. Now, a wiper puts a layer of powder on the build surface. The layer is approximately 00.1mm thick.
The laser will scan the build surface, carefully slag the powder, and solidify the object’s cross-section. Once the cross-section is scanned, the build platform will move down one layer. The recoating blade will put fresh bin powder on the scanned layer.
The cycle is repeated until the product is manufactured, and the remaining powder, which isn’t slaged yet, will remain on the surface and act as a support structure.
Compared to all the types of 3D printing methods, SLS gives significantly more options to produce complex parts but can be responsible for the rise in cost and could make a hole in your pocket.
DLP – Digital Light Processing –
DLP 3D printing type is very similar to SLS, but rather than a laser, it used a light projector. It uses photopolymer resin. Another key difference is that it flashes a single image of all layers simultaneously, which means the entire layer is cured at once.
The layers image is composed of square pixels, which results in a layer formed of small rectangular boxes better known as Voxels.
DLP is faster than SLA as it projects the entire layer at once rather than tracing all cross-sections one by one. Light is projected onto the resin using LED screens, which are re-directed to the build surface by Digital Micro Mirror Device.
The overall process is speedy and is suitable for small production units. The only drawback for DLP compared to SLA is that producing parts with a smooth cured surface is difficult. Voxels being rectangular boxes is responsible for that.
BJ – Binder Jetting –
BJ is a 3D printing type in which an industrial printhead carefully drops a liquid binding agent onto a thin layer of powder particles. The same process is repeated on every layer until the object is completed. The data is usually stored in a digital design file.
BJ is utilized for manufacturing high-end products with complicated designs. 3D printing metal parts, figurines, castings, cores, and molds are some of the products designed by BJ.
BJ is mostly used for manufacturing 3D products like topographical maps, globes, etc. Sandstone powder and PMMA powder are advisable.
Through a CAD model that holds color information, full-color prints can be produced. Two main methods that are industrially used for CAD model manufacturing are Per Face Approach and Texture map.
The Per face method is easy and straightforward and used for simpler objects, but a more specific kind of control is required. The texture map is more useful.
#1 3D printing lets you manufacture more complex and difficult design parts compared to traditional manufacturing methods.
#2 Printing on demand. No excess time, money, and space is needed to stock inventory.
#3 As 3D printing mostly uses plastics rather than metals, Its products get the additional advantage of being lightweight.
#4 Rapid prototyping lets the manufacturers prototype and produce parts within hours and is certainly way faster than machine prototyping.
#1 3D printing can only utilize limited materials within plastics and metals because not all materials can be temperature controlled.
#2 Many of the printable materials cannot be recycled.
#3 Very few of all the materials are food safe.
#4 Not suitable for producing in large volumes because, unlike injection molding, production costs won’t go down.
3D Printing Applications –
3D printing techniques are now widely accepted worldwide and are heavily utilized in many applications. Here are the main applications
- Prototyping & Manufacturing
- Art & Jewelry
#1 Prototyping & Manufacturing:
3D printing is all bout faster prototyping. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods, like injection molding, blow molding, and extrusion, it can create products within hours not days. If a product needs constant implement within a short span of time, then traditional manufacturing is not suited for it, but 3D printing, however, can fabricate a part within hours, saving a lot of resources and time.
With cloud technologies being so prevalent these days, companies can deliver on-demand products anywhere in the world within hours of taking orders.
A term very popular made by 3D printing is “agile tooling.” Here tooling for different manufacturing methods is made by modular means, enabling rapid prototyping, solving problems like tooling and fixture needs.
The medical and healthcare industry has witnessed several new developments in adopting 3D printing methods in the last few years. A trendy term used for this is “bioprinting.” It enables medical professionals to design patient-specific solutions like medical devices like prosthetics and artificial counterparts to natural tissues and membranes.
There have been many recorded cases where patients with serious injuries have replaced body parts with 3D-printed components specifically designed and machined for them. A good example is – a patient receiving a titanium pelvis implant, another getting a new titanium lower jaw. In addition, a motorcyclist patient whose face had been seriously injured in a road accident was rebuilt with 3D printed parts.
The pharmaceutical industry is trying to make pills for several illnesses by binder jetting. The porous nature of the pills will be easily digestible and advisable with high dosages.
3D printing is part of the construction industry since the mid-1990s and has witnessed significant developments. Some important applications include wax foam, polymers, concrete, reactive bond, sintering, and additive welding.
3D printing construction s being used in sectors like private and public sector properties. Some irreplaceable benefits of including 3D printing in construction are low labor costs, rapid construction accuracy, precision, and less wastage.
#4 Art & jewelry:
3D printing has made its way to the jewelry industry by providing innovative solutions and designs. They provide immense freedom to designers and manufacturers worldwide with newer, tackier, and more intricate designs not possible to produce in traditional manufacturing methods.
The Future of 3D Printing Industry –
3D printing became more important to manufacturers and became an integral part of our lives during the pandemic and we didn’t even realize it. 3D printing method was used to make the maximum amount of PPE kits and ventilators. It did something which was unachievable for the larger and more traditional manufacturing techniques. However, what does it tell us about the future of 3D printing?.
MakerBot, a subsidiary of Stratasys recently conducted research, the study included professionals from a variety of industries such a medical, aerospace, and automotive. The results were astounding as it revealed that almost 74% of respondents who participated in the research said re planning to invest in 3D printing technology in 2021, with 50% planning to spend up to $100,000.
Talking about the near future of 3D printing, Desktop Metal’s CEO and co-founder, Ric Fulop, offers some predictions:
- The next big thing for 3D printing will be its acceptance in functional Functional End-Use applications and mass production.
- 95%-99% of manufacturing spendings will move to functional end-use parts.
- Additive manufacturing will speed up greater freedom of product design.
1. How can I make money from 3D printing?
Ans. Yes. You can make money from 3D printing, and there are many ways to do it. The most popular ways are running a 3D printing service in your local area, or even a niche 3D goods selling a business can also be very profitable. There is good scope in selling 3D printed items ad digital goods both online and offline.
2. Can I 3D print cars?
Ans. 3D printing technology is readily making its way to the automotive industry. Its utilization is gaining pace for making prototype tools and intricate designs. Moreover, additive manufacturing is rapidly being adapted to make car parts, which means it is true that it is already useful for making cars. However, the present signs might be positive, showing a bright future for additive technologies, but how well it will penetrate the automotive industry can be predicted by no one.
3. Which is the largest object ever to be printed from a 3D printer?
Ans. The biggest object ever printed was a 25-foot, 5,000-pound boat, and it was printed by the largest 3D printer in the world named The Winsun 3D printer.
4. Which are the largest 3D printing companies?
Ans. The top 5 largest 3D companies are as follows:
- 3D Systems Corp.
- Proto Labs inc.
- FARO Technologies Inc.
- Materialise NV
- The ExOne Co.
5. Where can I design ideas for 3D printing?
Ans. Many websites are sharing fantastic 3D printing ideas. Below are the website sharing the most vivid ideas:
- 3D Warehouse
- NIH 3D Print Exchange
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Final Thoughts –
Thus, was my knowledge and insights about types of 3D printing techniques. I have tried my best to mention all the necessary details. 3D printing is a technology with unlimited potential. However, engineers have been only able to utilize only the trip of the iceberg. As the 3D printing technologies will evolve and become more common, it has the capability to transform the way we do everything.
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Have a lovely week 🙂