3D printing is rightly known as an additive process, and is usually referred to as Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), or sometimes Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).
Simply put, this means that FDM printers extrude a small amount of heated material, which is typically a type of plastic, to build an object or objects layer-by-layer. While there are a small percentage of StereoLithography (SLA) printers that harden a pool of polymer liquid resin by exposing it to focused ultraviolet light, most 3D printers are of the FDM variety. Since FDM printers are the most common and the easiest to work with, they’re what we’ll focus on here.
3D Printing is a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material. It brings a digital object (its CAD representation) into its physical form by adding layer by layer of materials. Simplifying the ideology behind 3D printing, for anyone that is still trying to understand the concept, it could be likened to the process of building something with Lego blocks automatically.
3D Printing brings two fundamental innovations: the manipulation of objects in their digital format and the manufacturing of new shapes by addition of material.
“Digital + Additive Manufacturing “
The most basic, differentiating principle behind 3D printing is that it is an additive manufacturing process. And this is indeed the key because 3D printing is a radically different manufacturing method based on advanced technology that builds up parts, additively, in layers at the sub mm scale. This is fundamentally different from any other existing traditional manufacturing techniques.
Tell me about 3d Printing Technology…
The entire 3D printing technology can be divided into 3 steps – (a) 3D Design (b) Slicing (c) 3D Printing. 3D digital model is the starting point for any 3D printing process. This digital model can be created using various 3D design softwares or can also can be created using 3D scanning. Once the 3D model is created, it is then sliced into layers thereby converting the design into a file readable by 3D printer. 3D printer will then print this file layer by layer using the material given as input to the 3D printer.
How does 3d Printing Process work?
Fused Deposition Modelling, or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), is an additive manufacturing process that belongs to the material extrusion family. In FDM, an object is built by selectively depositing melted material in a pre-determined path layer-by-layer. The materials used are thermoplastic polymers and come in a filament form.
FDM is the most widely used 3d Printing technology: it represents the largest installed base of 3D printers globally and is often the first technology people are exposed to. In this article, the basic principles and the key aspects of the technology are presented.
A designer should keep in mind the capabilities and limitations of the technology when fabricating a part with FDM, as this will help him achieve the best result.
3D Printing Materials Guide: Plastics
When it comes to 3D printing, the sky is (almost) the limit in terms of what materials you can use — and researchers are constantly making new materials 3D printable. Some of the commonly used Filament are as :
- ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) : ABS filament is the most commonly used 3D printing plastics. It is used in the bodywork of cars, appliances, and mobile phone cases. It is a thermoplastic which contains a base of elastomers based on polybutadiene, making it more flexible, and resistant to shocks.
- PLA (PolyLactic Acid): Another crowd favorite in our 3D printing materials guide is PLA, a cornstarch derivative (but sugar cane and tapioca varieties can also be found), which makes it biodegradable. It‘s an easy material to 3D print with and emits a pleasantly sweet fragrance when heated. For this reason, many people prefer it over ABS. Moreover, it is a suitable 3D printing material for single-use food contact and it contracts less than ABS when cooling. However, PLA is less durable than ABS and susceptible to heat. So, for any type of engineering parts, you’ll be better off with ABS.
- ASA (Acrylic Styrene Acrylonitrile): ASA is a material that has similar properties to ABS, but has a greater resistance to UV rays. As with ABS, it is advised to print the material with a heated bed platform to prevent warping. When printing with ASA, similar print settings are used to ABS, but extra care must be taken to print with a closed chamber due to styrene emissions.
- Nylon : Given its flexibility and strength, Nylon is the premier choice for a wide range of applications from engineering to the arts. Often it is simply referred to as “white plastic”. Nylon prints have a rough surface that can be polished smooth. Among FDM filaments, the layer bonding of nylon is stronger than all others, making it the ideal 3D printing material for parts that require good tensile and mechanical strength. Like other thermoplastics, Nylon degrades from humidity in the surrounding air – if you want to use it for home 3D printing, better store it in airtight containers or bags.
- PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-modified) : PETG, or glycolized polyester, is a thermoplastic widely used in the additive manufacturing market, combining both the simplicity of PLA 3D printing and the strength of ABS. It is an amorphous plastic, which can be 100% recycled. It has the same chemical composition as polyethylene terephthalate, better known by its acronym PET. Glycol has been added to reduce its brittleness and therefore its fragility.
- PC (Polycarbonate) : It is a high strength material designed for engineering applications. The material has good temperature resistance, able to resist any physical deformation up to around 150ºC. However, PC is prone to absorbing moisture from the air, which can affect performance and printing resistance. Therefore, PC has to be stored in airtight containers. PC is highly valued by the AM industry for its strength and transparency. It has a much lower density than glass, making it particularly interesting for designing optical parts, protective screens or decorative objects.
3D Printing Applications
3D printing has been around for decades but has experienced a surge of popularity in recent years. The beauty of 3D printing is that it’s a simple technology that can be applied to all sorts of fields. It’s lowered the barrier for anyone to design and create and opened up opportunities to streamline processes already in place.
Without further ado, here are five big applications for 3D printing in 2020.
Makerspaces, equipped with printers, CNC machines, and other tools, have become common. Also, 3D printers can be found in public libraries already. Most universities have at least one (if not several) 3D printers for students to use for classes or their own projects. Not only do 3D printers allow students to create in completely new ways, but there’s also a lot of potential for educational models.
- Prototyping & Manufacturing :
Prove and perfect your designs in rigorous testing scenarios with tough 3D printed prototypes. With a range of technologies and engineering-grade materials to choose from, you can reveal how your product performs before market production. Correct errors and improve designs early in the development process by taking advantage of our fast prototyping services. High-performance prototypes built with FDM can withstand thermal, chemical and mechanical stress, adding a new level of performative data for your product.
- Medicine :
3D printing technologies have opened up the capabilities for customization in a wide variety of applications in the medical field. Using bio-compatible and drug-contact materials, medical devices can be produced that are perfectly suited for a particular individual.
- Construction :
Another exciting application of 3D printing is in construction. Concrete 3d Printing has been in development for years as a fast and cheaper way to build buildings. Large-scale 3D printers specially designed to print in concrete can pour foundations and build walls onsite. They can also be used to print modular concrete sections that are later assembled onsite.
For example, 3d printed bridge in Shanghai, China was printed in 450 hours at two-thirds of the usual cost. It was also installed with detectors that relay information about stress and strain so the city can monitor its status in real-time.
That’s not all, though. Researchers are also investigating how 3D printing could be useful in colonizing Mars If humanity ever wants to build a colony on Mars, it would be impractical to send up construction materials from Earth. Instead, we could turn Mars rock into 3D printable material, and send up 3D printing robots to construct habitats before humans arrive.
- Jewellery :
The production of jewellery is one industry that has embraced 3d Printing. Many jewellers now use the technology to disrupt the way things were done for hundreds of years. 3D printing is now used to create the patterns for investment casting and to print jewelry directly.