3d printing is something that you cannot stop hearing about. This new form of technology is revolutionizing how things can get made. Now, tech hobbyists can 3D print their own creations in their garage and huge companies can slash research and development budgets in half by 3D printing prototypes.
If you are new to 3d printing (like I once was) you might be wondering what the hype is all about, how does 3D printing work and how can I use it?
A 3D printer has the ability to take 3D images that are created or scanned via a computer and then physically print that 3D image out. Much in the same way, a regular printer takes digital photographs and documents then transfers that on to paper via ink, a 3D printer creates actual objects.
Rather than ink, a 3D printer will use something called filament to create the objects you are printing. This filament comes in large spools and looks something like spaghetti.
The majority of 3D printer filament is a specific type of plastic. Currently, there are many different types of plastic filament to meet the specific needs of the print. According to Gizmo Dorks, a supplier of 3D printer filaments, “new types of filament are being created all the time and even hybrid plastic filaments are being made.” Some plastics are very hard and durable while other are much more flexible.
The hybrid 3D filaments can have some very interesting uses for hobbyists. Some of these filaments include wood and bronze, giving a very unique look and texture to your print.
A 3D printer will create your print by melting the filament through a thin nozzle and then “print” the project one very thin layer at a time. For example, if you were to print something that looked like an egg, imagine slicing that egg into hundreds of thin layers and then re-constructing the egg. In essence, that is what a 3D printer does, it layers the melted filament, one by one into the object you want to create.
If you wanted to do this before, you would have to create a metal mold and then inject some material into the mold. Creating a mold is costly and time consuming, so if you are creating a prototype and there is a mistake, or there is something you need to fix, you would need to create a brand new mold.
With 3D printing, creating your prototype is simple and relatively inexpensive. This makes updating any prototype much easier and cost effective. This is also why you might have heard 3D Printing also referred to as “Rapid Prototyping”
What is great about 3D printing is that the possibilities are only limited by people’s imaginations. There have already been great advancements in the medical field with 3D printed prosthetics or actual bone replacement. There have even been cases of 3D printed tissue. 3D printing is perfect for space exploration as well. Spare parts can be printed at a moments notice potentially saving the lives of the astronauts.
We are at the age now where we are far less limited by what we can achieve because of the advances in technology. With some imagination and hard work, 3D printing is something that can change how we look at traditional manufacturing process. If you can dream it, you can print it.