3D Printing

3D printing offers cost effective, fast prototyping and physical product design.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material. 3D printers are generally faster, more affordable and easier to use than other additive manufacturing technologies. 3D printers offer product developers the ability to print parts and assemblies made of several materials with different mechanical and physical properties in a single build process. Advanced 3D printing technologies yield models that closely emulate the appearance and functionality of product prototypes.

A 3D printer works by taking a 3D computer file and using and making a series of cross-sectional slices. Each slice is then printed one on top of the other to create the 3D object.

Resolution is given in layer thickness and X-Y resolution in dpi. Typical layer thickness is around 100 micrometres (0.1 mm), while X-Y resolution is comparable to that of laser printers. The particles (3D dots) are around 50 to 100 micrometres (0.05-0.1 mm) in diameter.

Since 2003 there has been large growth in the sale of 3D printers. Additionally, the cost of 3D printers has declined. The technology also finds use in the jewellery, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries.

A large number of competing technologies are available to do 3D printing. Their main differences are found in the way layers are built to create parts. Some methods use melting or softening material to produce the layers, e.g. selective laser sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modeling (FDM), while others lay liquid materials that are cured with different technologies. In the case of lamination systems, thin layers are cut to shape and joined together.

Standard applications include design visualization, prototyping/CAD, metal casting, architecture, education, geospatial, healthcare and entertainment/retail. Other applications would include reconstructing fossils in paleontology, replicating ancient and priceless artifacts in archaeology, reconstructing bones and body parts in forensic pathology and reconstructing heavily damaged evidence acquired from crime scene investigations.

More recently, the use of 3D printing technology for artistic expression has been suggested. Artists have been using 3D printers in various ways.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

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3D Printing Technologies:

Stereolithography (SLA) is a rapid prototyping process that uses a vat of liquid UV-curable photopolymer resin and a UV laser to build parts one layer at a time. SLA rapid prototyping is a great process for concept models, master patterns and tradeshow models.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a rapid prototyping process that uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of powder to build parts one layer at a time. SLS rapid prototyping is a great process for functional testing and for low volume manufacturing.

ColorJet Printing (CJP - Zprint) is an additive manufacturing technology which involves two major components – core and binder. The Core™ material (Resin Powder) is spread in thin layers over the build platform with a roller. After each layer is spread, color binder is selectively jetted from inkjet print heads over the core layer, which causes the core to solidify. The build platform lowers with every subsequent layer which is spread and printed, resulting in a full-color three-dimensional model.

MultiJet Printing (MJP - ProJet) Technology is a new Rapid Prototyping process that provides a quick turnaround for smooth, fully cured parts. The process consists only of UV bulbs and photopolymer materials. MJP rapid prototyping is a great process for Fit and Form Testing and tradeshow models. Finished MJP parts can readily absorb paint and can also be machined, drilled, chrome-plated or used for direct casting patterns.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a rapid prototyping process that uses a plastic filament of material supplied to an extrusion nozzle. The nozzle is heated to melt the material and can be moved in both horizontal and vertical directions. FDM rapid prototyping is a great process for functional testing and for low volume manufacturing. It is especially helpful since the materials used are actual ABS and Polycarbonate. Ultem is also a material option.

PolyJet is a rapid prototyping process that jets photopolymer materials in ultra-thin layers (16µ) onto a build tray layer by layer until the part is completed. Each photopolymer layer is cured by UV light immediately after it is jetted. PolyJet rapid prototyping is a great process for concept models, master patterns and tradeshow models.

Digital Light Processing (DLP) printing is similar to SLA, except that a UV light source is used to project the image slices onto the photopolymer based resin, which then hardens where the UV light shines. It gives similar results to SLA but is cheaper to build and run.

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