The Science Behind 3D Printing

3D printing is pretty interesting in my opinion; it’s goingto lead to a change in the way that we do things in a wide variety ofindustries. First off, what is 3D printing? 3D printing is a fascinating formof manufacturing technology in which almost any shape can be created out of awide variety of materials. These materials range anywhere from ABS plastic,ceramics, glass filled nylon, rubber like material, wax casts, stainless steel,Inconel, cobalt chrome, silver, platinum, and even gold. There are tons ofmaterials to choose from! In fact, over 60 materials exist in the world of 3Dprinting. Anyways, let’s jump back to the actual process of 3D printing. Forthis process to work, a design has to be created before anything can happen.This design will be the blueprint for the actual product itself. Varioussoftwares can be used to create these computer files. Just a few to think aboutwould be 3DS Max, Maya, Blender, Autodesk products, and Tinkercad. There aredefinitely other softwares that work in this 3D printing process.  Regardless, a design will be created from one of varioussoftwares. This design will then be sent to a technician, or the operator thatruns the 3D printer itself. This design will be plugged into the computer ofthe 3D printer, and it will manufacture the product in accordance to thedesign. Keep in mind, the technician will also have to choose the correctmachine, lay out the files, and start the printer. Other than that, theprinting process is pretty automated.  When the process starts, dependent on the style of 3Dprinting, a layer by layer process will begin. The printer will begin layingdown layers of material to create the design. These layers of material cansometimes be a fraction of the diameter of a human hair. As in less than 20microns! That’s a fraction of a millimeter! The detail levels can go very highin a variety of situations. Back to the actual process. The machine will takeinto account the dimensions and schematics of the design previously created,and it will bring it into existence, one layer at a time. Various processesinvolve shooting ultraviolet lights at liquid resins, laser melting powder,adhesive sprays on powder, and FDM printing. FDM printing is probably the mostpopular. This process involves shooting strands of plastic through a heated extruder.Think of a hot glue gun shooting out glue, where the hot part is the extruder, andthe glue consists of various materials. The 3D printer will use a computeraided manufacturing (CAM) system to create products. This means that thecomputer within the machine will tell the extruder exactly where to go, andwhere to melt material.  This process will continue layer by layer until a finalproduct emerges. Dependent on the style, there are some post productionrequirements in which the technician will have to clean the model. Some stylesof 3D printing call for the technician to dust off excess powder, dip the pieceinto strong bonding chemicals like epoxy, or add various finishes. Well,basically, that’s the 3D printing process! 

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