Nasa doesn’t always have to send out a wrench to space each time one is needed or maybe a small part of the space station needs attending to. That’s where the process of 3d printing comes in. Yes its a process where spools of plastic filament or trays of resin are transformed into physical objects, like the wrench we were talking about could easily be printed out in space and used without actually adding any additional cost of sending one there.
3D printing has become so popular yet most of us are still oblivious as to what it is hence I will be demystifying the vast ever-growing world of 3d printing. Because 3D printing allows for the transformation of a digital design into a tangible object, it has multiple uses and multiple numbers of companies or private individuals can put it to great use like students, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, and even massive factories.
Although mostly used for the creation of plastic objects, 3D printing can also generate metal objects, although this is a much more costly and far less common process than plastic 3D printing.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing is the process of creating objects usually plastic, but sometimes metal or other composite material from a digital model. Most 3D printers add material to the object one very thin layer at a time, which is why 3D printers are classified as “additive manufacturing.”
3D printers can be seen much more like plotters, moving a print head along both the X and Y axis to draw a pattern. In the case of a 3D printer, the pattern is usually drawn with plastic, not ink. What makes the 3D printer three-dimensional is that once a pattern is drawn, the print head moves up (or the print surface moves down), and another pattern is drawn on top of the first.
HOW DOES A 3D PRINTER WORK?
To how a printer works, we first have to differentiate them into the various types of available. There are several types of 3D printers out there, but we’ll be focusing on two: fused-deposition modeling (or FDM) and stereolithography (or SLA).
FDMs source material is rolls of filament. These typically come in strands either 1.75 or 2.85 millimeters thick, rolled onto a spindle. An FDM printer works by heating up the filament, which is then squeezed out through an extruder nozzle, which lays down layers on a build surface. The layers are incredibly thin, and as each molten layer is laid down on top of the previous layer, it partially fuses as it cools.
And that’s why the process can be sometimes slow because a 3d printed object may be made up of a huge number maybe hundreds or thousands of tiny layers.
As for SLA, it starts with a liquid resin as its source material. A build tray is lowered into the resin (usually upside down) and light (sometimes from an LCD, sometimes from an ultraviolet laser) creates a chemical reaction in the resin that causes it to harden. As each layer is exposed to the light, the printer raises the build platform slightly out of the resin pool, exposing the next layer to light.
FDM is the most common form of material extrusion 3D printing while SLA is the most common form of light polymerization 3D printing. These two printing methods are the most common because they have reached a cost level low enough that consumers, hobbyists, educators, entrepreneurs, and small businesses can afford them, but their limitation is that they are generally used with either plastic composites and nylon-like materials.
Other forms of 3D printers are available, but at a substantial buy-in cost. These include powder bed 3D printing (which drops powder that is then fused in the form), laminated object manufacturing (which glues sheets of material together and then cuts them to form), directed energy deposition (which is kind of like what would happen if a welding machine and an FDM printer gave birth), and electron beam freeform manufacturing (which shoots an electron beam in a vacuum to create molten metal based on a 3D model).
These last forms of 3D printing are generally used to fabricate metal parts, while FDM and SLA are most often used to fabricate plastic objects.
What all of these have in common is that they’re creating new objects by incrementally adding and fusing raw material.
With all this information, one would think a 3d printer is some sort of magic machine that transforms whatever you may have in your mind to reality, but that’s, not it. You can’t just ask for a replica of anything you desire and expect it to be printed immediately.3D printing also has production constraints and design limitations. and also, 3d printing takes time and the more complicated the object is, the longe time it takes to print it