In today’s era, most things we thought would just be a figment of our imaginations forever, have been invented already or are in the making. How awesome would it be if you could get that spare part for your malfunctioning treadmill right at home? Wouldn’t it make life infinitely easier if you did not have to leave, get out or ask someone to get what you need? Well, maybe extreme accessibility like that is a far off notion, but 3D printing technology is making its way in our everyday lives, and it’s doing it fast.

 

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What is 3D printing?

3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object from a digital model. 3D printing occurs as a result of an additive process and the material is layered in various shapes. Each of these layers is a very thin slice cut in horizontal sections which eventually pile up to make the final product, a 3d print. Even though the technology was first introduced in 1984, it has gained immense popularity for the past couple of years.

 How does a 3d printer work?

Like a 2D printer, a 3D printer is given instructions and a digital file. The file is a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file created by either a 3D modeling program, if it is a project to be created from scratch or a 3D scanner if an existing one is to be copied. When a digital model has been prepared, a software slices the model into hundreds of layers from which the printer creates a three-dimensional model layer by layer. The final object created is completely blended and no layering is visible.

 

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What are the advantages of 3D printing?

The list is pretty long but some of the major benefits of 3d printing technology include:

  • Businesses can construct models and parts in a very short time rather than in days or weeks
  • Eventually, lower cost
  • Better finish of products
  • Very easy process as compared to the conventional method of creating physical things
  • Long lasting and durable products
  • Easier demonstration to customers or clients by a 3D model rather than just a computerized demonstration

 What are the different methods of making a 3D model?

All 3D printers use any one of the following three methods:

  1. Selective laser sintering (SLS) where a laser fuses particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powder and shapes it into the desired object.
  2. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) where a plastic filament or a metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to a nozzle which is consequently heated to melt the material and the melted material in turn produces the layers to form the product.
  3. Stereolithography (SLA) that involves an ultraviolet curable photopolymer resin and an ultraviolet laser. The laser creates a cross-section of an individual layer on the liquid resin. Exposure to the ultraviolet laser light solidifies the layers and blends them to the layer below.

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What are the applications of 3D printing?

Even though 3D printing has opened many new doors, right now its usage is a little limited. Some uses of 3D printing are:

  • Rapid prototyping (to create prototypes for industrial and research purposes)
  • Tissue engineering
  • Reconstructing bones and body parts for forensic pathology
  • In dentistry to create accurate impressions, leading to dentures with a better fit
  • Clothing
  • Eyewear
  • Helping the environment by using plastic waste and recycling it into useful products

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