3D Printing Processes Explained
The need for precision and accuracy in manufacturing has grown exponentially in recent years. As such, 3D printing has become an essential tool in many industries due to its ability to create highly precise and accurate parts and products. But what exactly is 3D printing? How does 3D printing work? And what can it achieve?
3D printing involves printing three-dimensional (3D) objects from a model stored as a digital file. It is done by putting down layers of material continuously until the desired object is created. It has become more popular in recent years, and there are now several different methods of 3D printing. This article will explain the 3D printing process in detail below:
What Is 3D Printing?
A 3D printed object is created through additive processes. In this type of printing, consecutive layers of material are set down in varying shapes. On the other hand, subtractive manufacturing involves taking out materials to develop an object.
The main advantage of 3D printing over traditional manufacturing is that it achieves complex shapes and structures that cannot be created using any other manufacturing process. This means that 3D printing can be used to create objects with intricate designs in a fraction of the time and materials it would take to create them using traditional methods.
How Does 3D Printing Work?
3D printing uses a computer-aided design (CAD) file to form an object. The CAD file is then sliced into thin layers, and each layer is printed on top of the other until the object is created. Moreover, 3D printing can be done using various materials, including metals, plastics, ceramics, and human tissue.
It is a versatile manufacturing process that can create objects of almost any shape or size. It is also relatively quick and easy to set up, which makes it an ideal method for prototyping and small-scale production runs.
3D Software And Technologies
The 3D printing process relies on a few key technologies and software, such as the following:
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software
Computer-aided design (CAD) is used to create a 3D model of an object you want to print. Designers use CAD to make sure the form and dimensions of the part are correct. The software provides a visual of the part, it will show how the object will operate or fit together with other components. Information regarding material and surface finish can be added. This same software is often used to create technical drawings.
Stereolithography is a 3D printing technology that uses a laser to cure layers of photopolymer resin into solid objects. SLA is one of the most popular 3D printing technologies due to its high accuracy and resolution. It is commonly used for creating prototypes and low-volume production runs.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
This is a 3D printing technology that uses a laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, or ceramic powder. It is a versatile 3D printing technology that can be used to create prototypes and functional parts of an object.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Fused deposition modelling (FDM) is a 3D printing technology that uses a filament of melted plastic, which is extruded through a heated nozzle to create an object. It is a popular 3D printing technology because of its low cost and ease of use. Additionally, it is commonly used for creating prototypes, small-scale production runs, and individual parts.
An STL file is the most common type of file used in 3D printing. It contains a three-dimensional representation of an object created using CAD software. It is then sliced into thin layers to be printed using a 3D printer.
Examples Of 3D Printing
There are diverse industries that apply 3D printing, including the following:
3D printing is used in the medical industry to create prosthetics, implants, and other medical devices. It is even used to create human tissue and organs for transplantation.
Car manufacturers and suppliers use 3D printing to create prototypes and small-scale production runs of car parts. 3D printing is also used to create aftermarket car parts, such as custom exhaust systems and body kits.
Fashion companies use 3D printing to create products, such as shoes, shirts, and dresses. 3D printed clothing is usually more affordable and quicker to produce than traditional methods.
Many jewellers are now using 3D printing to create custom jewellery designs. 3D printing allows for a wide range of design options and can be used to create complex designs that would be difficult to produce using traditional methods. There are specialist printers that print directly in castable wax. This allows custom designs to be created in precious metals with no waste.
Processes Of 3D Printing
3D processing requires three main steps:
Before building an object, there should first be a model of the object. Therefore, the first step of a 3D printing process is modelling. Typically, most manufacturing plants will use CAD software to generate a 3D model of the object.
Once the model has been generated, it is saved as an STL file, which will then go through a slicing software which is used to generate the G-code. During this step, the model file is checked for errors, such as holes, self-intersections, and overlapping surfaces. These errors must be fixed, as they can cause problems during printing.
If there are no errors on the STL file, the model will be ready for printing. The printer will follow the instructions on the G-code to create the object layer by layer. The printing process can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of the object.
Mostly, the printer will build the object by depositing successive layers of material until the object is complete. The type of 3D printer and the object to be printed will determine the materials used.
After the object has been printed, it will need to be finished. This step is often skipped for prototypes but is necessary for objects that will be used functionally. The finishing process can include sanding, painting, and sealing.
This step is necessary to remove any rough edges, remove remnants of support structures used during the printing process and ensure that the object is safe to use. The finishing process can be applied to add aesthetic details to the object as well.
3D printing in manufacturing is becoming more and more popular since it comes with advantages. It is a fast and efficient way to produce objects, and it is a great way to create custom or one-of-a-kind objects.
If you are considering using 3D printing in your business, it is important to understand the 3D printing processes and which one is best suited to a given application. You can also contact us if you have any questions surrounding a specific application. We would be happy to assist you further.