What is 3D Printing?

3D printing or Three-Dimensional printing also known as additive manufacturing has been in the works since the 1940s although the detailed quality may not be as compared to what it is right now, the concept, believe it or not, has been pretty old. The general idea of 3D printing was brought forth to light by Murray Leinster in 1945. 3D printing has been in a lot of use lately and for various reasons. Let’s shine a light on the multiple aspects and understand the concept of it, to better understand the different uses of it and how the product of the 3D printer could be used.

The working of a 3D printer

The models or objects that need to be printed out are usually sketched out in CAD (Computer-aided design), alongside a 3D scanner or by a plain old digital camera or photogrammetry software. CAD usually results in the least amount of errors but as the model can be viewed, it is easier to rectify the mistake before printing out the actual model. CAD designs can be saved in STL files (stereolithography file format), a default file format for CAD designs regarding additive manufacturing models.

Before printing a design model one has to check for various errors, the primary errors to be looked out for are:

  • Holes
  • Self-intersections
  • Manifold faults
  • Sound shells
  • Overhang faults
  • Faces normals

During the STL generation, one can fix these errors if they were present. Models generated by 3D scanning contain more errors than those created with CAD. Once the errors are rectified, the STL file then needs to be transferred to software called “Slicer”. The slicer then creates line by line representation of how the file can be generated in 3D and conditions it according to the specific type of 3D printer provide which generally is an FDM printer. The printer axially describes the model idea with X-Y resolution in one of the two units: dots per inch (the standard printer format) or micrometres. The model is then printed through the printer.

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The printing process can take from a few hours to several days depending on the size and complexity of the model. The general rule of thumb used during printing any 3D model is to make it slightly larger than the required size and then discard some of the excess materials through high-resolution subtractive processes.

3D printing can be processed through various materials. The most common materials used for 3D printing are polymers because of how versatile they are. But lately, various materials are used for 3D printing. From metals to resins, the type of materials used is depended on the type of printer being used.

Uses of 3D Printers

3D printers are used for varied purposes in today’s world. From the medicinal field involving transplants to the manufacturing fields. It is used in industries to print out apparel and to create small parts as well as major parts for certain pieces of machinery. There are so many uses to it that it can’t just be listed as some major process. Hence, 3D printers can not just be for huge industries but rather for small-scale industries and in fact can be used as a general device at home as well for small projects and conveniences.