Three dimensional printing technology has irreversibly changed the way we produce goods. Even long-established industries such as construction, travel, and healthcare have been impacted by the 3D printing boom of the early 2010’s. This article will give a brief overview of what 3D printing is, how it works, and the significance of it in our modern world.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing, sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, is a process in which an object is created by successively adding or stacking construction material one horizontal layer at a time.
How does it work?
The first step in 3D printing is creating a digital blueprint of the object you want to manufacture. You can use CAD software like Blender to make your own designs, or you can find free and open-source models created by other users online.
Once you have a finished design, the digital model needs to be “sliced” before it is sent to the printer. Slicing software first divides the model into a stack of hundreds or even thousands of layers and then creates instructions for the printer that describe each layer as a sequence of physical movements that the printer extruder needs to execute as it is applying the construction material. This step my not be necessary as some 3D printers automatically perform this slicing operation for you.
Before sending your sliced model to the printer to be built, you need to load the construction material into the printer. Most commercial 3D printers use bio-plastic filaments, which are spooled into the back of the machine. Once the filament has been loaded, send the sliced model to the printer via USB, SD card, or wifi. After receiving the model, the printer pulls the plastic filament through a cylinder where it is melted and deposited onto the printer’s staging plate where it instantly cools and hardens. The printer will continue to add each layer of filament until the object has been completed.