3D Printing – How 3D Printing Technology Works
3D printing, or rapid prototyping, is an additive manufacturing technology which creates three dimensional objects from materials, like super-heated plastic and polycarbonate, one layer at a time. This mechanized technology, which is an innovation in the field of mechanical engineering, has three basic principles: material cartridges, flexibility of output, and the translation of digital data to visible pattern.
From liquid polymer or photopolymer, which is used in Chuck Hull’s Stereolithography (SLA) and in Digital Light Processing (DLP), other various material cartridges have emerged. This also leads to the development of variety in material deposition. In SLA and DLP, the materials are laid down by laser method or exposing layers of liquid polymer to light causing each layer to harden. In Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), thermoplastics, HDPE, eutectic metals, and edible materials are deposited through extrusion method. In various 3D printing technologies, in such as Selective Heat Sintering (SHS), and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), granular method is used to deposit thermoplastic and other powdered materials.
Nowadays, almost any digital model can be printed by the right 3D printing technology. This is one of the technology’s advantages over traditional manufacturing which involves the assembly and gluing together of different parts of a product. The object blueprint, which should be an STL file (*.stl), can be created/designed using Computer Aided Design (CAD) or other design softwares, or throught 3D scanning. An STL file approximates the shape of the object using triangular facets. Smaller facets make more accurate model blueprints.
Finally, once the ideal material cartridges are provided, and the digital data is created, the process proceeds to the translation of this data to a visible pattern. Conventionally, a 3D printer connects to a computer which contains the model blueprint through a USB cable. However, there are now 3D printers with WiFi capabilities allowing them to connect to the computer wirelessly. As we have mentioned, there are various ways of depositing materials to form the three dimensional object. All of these processes, however, are done one layer at a time until the object is complete.
The 3D printing technology has definitely shifted the paradigm from the traditonality of factories and assembly lines to the modern and progressive single-process 3D printers. 3D printing can be advantageous in many ways. However you want to use it, make sure to find the best type for you and your needs to maximize your produce.