Most of us have learned about the potential of 3D printing at some point. However, in this guide, we provide insights into the history and reality of 3D printing — the methods, materials, and applications — as well as predictions about where it could be headed in the future.
3D printing is a group of additive manufacturing technologies capable of creating a three-dimensional object by superimposing successive layers of a certain material. It is a process by which physical objects are created by layering materials from a digital model.
Additive manufacturing techniques are used to create 3D printed objects. An object is formed in an additive process by laying down successive layers of material until the object is complete. Each of these layers can be seen as a cross-section of the item that has been thinly sliced.
Compared to conventional manufacturing methods, 3D printing allows you to create complex shapes with less material.
3D printing allows you to print cell phone cases, toys, cartoon models, and even human prosthetics and houses. Thanks to technological advances, it’s applications are seen in a wide range of sectors whether it be the telecommunication, medical, automotive, aeronautic, dental or architectural industry.
3D printing had high entry costs in its early years with models and materials for 3D printers being costly. However, costs have been going down in recent years, thanks to advancements and variations in the technology of both the devices and the materials used in them, making 3D printing more readily available and cost-effective.
The cost of 3D printing can range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Without a 3D model, it’s difficult to estimate the cost of a 3D print. However, the cost of 3D printing is affected by factors such as content, model complexity, labor, part size, and geometry.
Companies typically charge based on the amount of material required to construct your component and the type of material you choose. Material cost is linked to mechanical properties as well as manufacturing ease and speed. A simple prototyping photopolymer will probably be the best choice if you’re looking for the most cost-effective material. However, if you have more practical specifications, you will need a higher strength material, which may be more costly.
The amount of support material used in your design may also have an impact on the cost. Using self-supporting angles (usually about 45 degrees or more) in your design will help you save money on materials by using less support material.
The minimum layer height for your part is affected by wall thickness, which affects quote price. Depending on the 3D printing process and mechanical properties, different materials have different minimum wall thickness specifications.
Thinner walls can reduce construction time and costs, but they can also result in flimsy features, holes, gaps, and missing parts. When it comes to wall thickness, the most important factors to remember are geometry and component application.
The cost of labor is determined by your component specifications, the 3D printing process, and the material you order. Metal parts made with DMLS, for example, must be machined off the platform, adding to the process’s hands-on labor period. If your component includes a smooth surface or coatings, it will almost certainly cost more than a raw part that just needs help removed.
3D and 4D printing have the potential to revolutionize manufacturing. However, these technologies have many more applications than just manufacturing 3D models, many of which will surprise you.
Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have successfully printed bones, muscles, and ears and implanted them into animals using a technique known as bioprinting. What’s even more exciting is that the printed tissue survived and became usable tissue after being inserted.
Natural Machines’ Foodini 3D food printer has created a 3D printed PIZZA and is designed to produce personalized printed food. Pizza, bean burgers, and a variety of healthy recipes can be printed using edible ingredients.
Apis Cor, a Russian company, can 3D print a modest house in just 24 hours, saving up to 40% on construction costs. The walls are built up using layers of a concrete mixture laid down by the mobile printer, then insulation, windows, and a roof are added after the printer is removed. Houses can also be printed on-site rather than in a warehouse, thanks to Apis Cor’s mobile printing devices.
While 3D printing has the potential to create artefacts that would be difficult to create using conventional manufacturing methods, its manufacturing speed per product is a drawback. You can build personalized, one-of-a-kind products that provide significant benefits to individuals, but 3D printing’s ability to scale such items is currently limited.
3D printing is unlikely to take over the manufacturing industry anytime soon, but it is something that the 3D printing industry is considering. However, 3D printing did take over the hearing aid industry in a very short period of time and there are 3D printers on the market that are much faster than they used to be.
Individuals can easily get interested in 3D printing, but there are many factors that make it challenging. To truly advance and grow into a popular household product, 3D printing requires fewer steps and a simpler process for people to get started.
Many 3D printers are already plug-and-play, which is an issue that is being addressed. Other things, such as making your own prints, may have a steep learning curve, so a novice can feel overwhelmed when considering getting involved with 3D printing.
You might be shocked at how tiny an item can be printed using a 3D printer. How about a brow the size of an ant? Artist Jonty Hurwitz specializes in doing just that, and he does it exceptionally well.
He used 3D printed photosensitive material to produce the world’s smallest sculptures, known as nano-sculptures. When you compare the height of an item to its size, you’ll notice that it’s no larger than a human hair and looks like a speck of dust in the sunlight.
With 3D printing technology, car parts, smartphone covers, fashion accessories, medical devices, and artificial organs have all been created. In 1984, Charles Chuck Hull invented the first working 3D printer, and the technology has progressed significantly since then. Nowadays, 3D printing is leveraged across different industries (aerospace, automotive, dental, medical, etc.).
Through using 3D printing to create components, manufacturing companies and aerospace companies have saved billions of dollars. 3D printing has also aided in the saving of lives. Researching real-world applications of 3D printing is one of the best ways to think about what it can do.
Here are 2 examples of industries that leverage 3D printing:
More schools are integrating 3D printing into their curriculum every day. The advantages of 3D printing for education include the ability to make prototypes without the need for costly tooling, which lets students better prepare for their future. Students gain knowledge of 3D printing applications by designing and fabricating models.
3D printing bridges the difference between ideas and photos on a page or screen and the actual, 3-dimensional world, allowing for the development of those ideas/images. In schools and public libraries, 3D printers are now commonplace. Students use 3D printers in their classes and projects at universities. For both educators and students, companies like MakerBot offer certification courses in 3D printing applications.
3D printing technologies are also revolutionizing STEM education by allowing students in the classroom to do low-cost rapid prototyping and fabricate low-cost high-quality scientific equipment from open hardware designs.
Bioprinting enables the 3D printing of artificial organs, which aids in the faster resolution of organ malfunction problems in patients, which is beneficial to both the patient and his/her family, as well as healthcare systems.
For pharmaceutical research, 3D printed tissues have been developed as a cost-effective and ethical way of identifying drug side effects and validating safe dosages. Binder Jetting, a 3D printing technique, can be used to make pills. The process allows for very porous pills to be made, allowing for high dosages in a single pill that can be dissolved quickly and digested, which is useful for treating conditions like epilepsy.
So, how do you tell the difference between 3D and 4D printing? The difference is that 4D printed objects can change shape over time, while 3D printed objects, like any plastic or metal component, retain a fixed shape. The transformation over time is the fourth dimension of 4D.