Manufacture Virtually Anything

3D printing is a pretty interesting form of manufacturing inmy opinion. This technology allows for the creation of virtually anything! Thatsounds a little bit farfetched, but let me elaborate. Before I can do that, letme tell you what 3D printing is. Various forms of manufacturing have beenaround for centuries; some involved various molds and casting, while mostinvolved removing material, or some kind of machining. 3D printing is verydifferent, as it creates the final product one layer at a time from scratch.There is no block of material that is cut away, and there is far less waste.How does 3D printing actually work?  For the 3D printing process to work, an artist, designer,engineer, or whatever you’d like to call it will have to create a 3D design.This design will work as the blueprint for the final product. Because 3Dprinting revolves around a CAM system, or a computer aided manufacturingsystem, the computer has to call on something! The computer in the printer willrefer to the blueprint itself when making the print. Typically, each printeroffers a software of some kind which will splice up each 3D model beingprinted. The image will be spliced into very small horizontal layers. 3Dprinting works by laying down layers of material at a time. There are variousways of laying down layers of material, some of which involve melting downmaterial. Others involve binding powder. Some even involve using ultravioletlights to “cure” resins. There is definitely a variety of ways to do it, butultimately 3D printing is a layer by layer process. The computer in the printerwill “call” upon each spliced layer, and it will begin laying down the material.These layers can be as small as .12 microns! That’s about a fourth of thediameter of a human hair! The printer will stack layers until the final productis created, and then you will pull the part off the printer!  What’s so significant about this technology? Well… like Isaid earlier – it can manufacture virtually anything! Due to the layer by layerprocess, practically any shape can be made. Odd models such as a ball within aball, and functional pieces are developed through 3D printing. Various shapesthat offer intricate centers, hollow spaces, and curves are very doable.Traditional manufacturing and work by hand simply can’t compete in manyinstances. When I say that 3D printing can create virtually anything, I don’tmean absolutely anything can be made. However, there are a ton of options.There are over 100 materials to choose from, so finding a medium isn’t verydifficult. Not all printers allow for giant pieces, so size is an issue. Some printersonly offer the size for something like a few rings or hearing aids. Othersoffer the details to print a football helmet. Money is usually the biggestlimiting factor when it comes down to 3D printing. However, if  a design can be created on the computer, itlikely can be made through 3D printing. 

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