What is 3D Printing, How Does it Work, Services Cost and More Things you Should Know!

What is 3d Printing?

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process by which a physical object is created with the help of a digital model. As the name suggests, this is an additive process, whereby layers of a chosen material are placed one after another to obtain the final product. Just like inkjet printing, that adds layers of ink on the pages, 3D printing also works in a similar way.

When was 3d Printing Invented? – History and Evolution

The innovation was first thought of and patented in the 1980s, with the discovery of stereolithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), 3D print technologies still in vogue. Since then, there have been several other technologies discovered, including SLS, FDM, and SLM, and DMLS (metal) technologies.

Next, came Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), patented in the United States in 1992. Another immensely popular additive manufacturing technology, Selective Laser Melting (SLM). came to be developed in Germany during the 1990s. The growth and sale of these technologies can be attributed not only to the immense potential and applicability, but also to their speed, efficiency, ever-improving quality and cost-effectiveness.

Cost of 3D Printing Services

This is a relatively inexpensive undertaking, especially for the purpose of rapid prototyping, or creation of tools, and fixtures. However, conventional techniques of manufacturing, such as injection moulding, might be a better option when it comes to the quicker production of objects in greater volume.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

Understanding the Process

Of the many technologies that a 3D printing service provider may use, the three most used are SLA, SLS/SLM and FDM.

Let us look at how they work, and whether they share some common characteristics.

  • FDM starts with the creation of a prototype, which is obtained through the successive deposition of liquid plastics or any other material, depending on the project. The process prototype is created with the help of a Computer Aided Design (CAD) software file, that has been procured with the aid of prior3D scanning. FDM 3D printing is useful for producing complex, and scalable parts at a fraction of the time taken by conventional prototyping techniques.
  • SLA places layers of curable, photoreactive resin material, in succession, that is hardened using an ultraviolet laser beam. SLA also makes use of 3D models created using CAD (saved in the form of a STL file).
  • SLS/SLM, like SLA, also uses laser power to sinter a powdered material, usually a metal, into a solid form. In SLM printing, material is heated into a liquid before the curing. DMLS is a related technology that is used to 3D print metals.

What Material can be Used in 3d Printing?

3D Printing Materials

Nowadays, the repertoire of 3D print materials has increased manifold, with highly resistant metals like titanium being included in it. Wood and ceramics are also being used for 3D printing in Melbourne, especially for printing items of home décor or personalized gift items. Below are the two most popularly used categories of materials for 3D printing, across technologies.

  • Plastics: These are lightweight, with an array of physical attributes that make them ideal for both prototyping as well as functional applications (thermoplastics). Thermoplastics are more suitable for use in with FDM or SLS. On the other hand, thermosets are used with SLA or Material Jetting, that are more appropriate for obtaining better visual appearance. Some of the most common plastics used are ABS, PLA, ASA, PET, PC, nylon, ULTEM, etc.
  • Metals: These are mainly used for their superior strength, hardness, and high thermal resistance. Stainless steel, Maraging steel, titanium, aluminium, Inconel 625, bronze, brass, silver, gold, nickel alloy, cobalt chrome, copper, platinum, etc.

Advantages of Online 3D Printing Services

  • Rapid Prototyping: Companies are looking for more ways to cut down on the overall time taken for manufacturing, to cut back on production overheads. The ideal solution is 3D printing that can save valuable time in the domain of prototyping. 3D prototyping service helps companies to minimize process time. At the same time, it maintains complexity and precision of design in the end product. What earlier took days, or even weeks to make, can now be simply 3D printed, tested for defects and improvements, and turned around within a day’s time.
  • Design flexibility: Where conventional design mechanisms put foreseeable restrictions on the designer, rapid prototyping and 3D printing can help you overcome this challenge.
  • No more hurdles to accessibility: 3D print technologies are easy to learn and use. They can be set up anywhere, as per your convenience. All you need is a design and slicing software, and the rest is taken care of by the process itself.
  • Greater customization: Now, manufacturing companies can modify the shapes and designs of existing products, to suit the demands of their customers, with a few clicks only. This has immense ramifications across industries, be it the dental health sector, where doctors can now customize your requirements in no time, or your dream jewellery business!
  • Alleviation of risks: Minimize, and even nullify, erstwhile manufacturing risks using 3D printed prototypes. With its fundamental single-step technique that practically eliminates human error, you can now reduce design errors and mitigate risks, that too in a cost-effective way.
  • Support sustainability, reduce waste: Conventionally, manufacturing processes are guilty of generating too much waste that has caused lot of harm to not just the environment, but also losses to businesses. In 3D printing, a material is only used as much as is necessary for the construction of an object. Most of these materials are also recycled and reused. This ensures that manufacturing waste is regulated and minimized, over time. The processes are also more energy-efficient, making it a favourite among those businesses who genuinely believe in greener and more sustainable practices.
  • Cost-effectiveness: No discussion on additive technologies is complete without pointing, perhaps multiple times, how cost-effective they are when compared to traditional forms of manufacturing techniques. The various factors, such as tooling and machinery, as well as their maintenance, costs of materials, energy consumption, labour and ancillary expenses arising out of design flaws and test failures, are especially detrimental for low-volume production runs. 3D printing practically saves costs on all these fronts!

Applications of 3D Printing Service in Australia

Now, we get to see some of the real-life examples of how useful 3D printing truly has been, across various industry verticals, as well as in our personal lives.

  • Aerospace: High-performance parts are always in demand in the defence and aerospace industries. 3D printing can create topology optimized structures that also exhibit high strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Automobiles: The automotive industry has, perhaps, been the biggest beneficiary of the various uses of the additive manufacturing. Right from the cost-effectiveness, time-saving capabilities, to rapid prototyping and ease of customization, 3D printing has become a strong ally for this industrial sector.
  • Healthcare: amelioration of human lives is one of the aspects that is seldolmly looked at when talking about 3D printing. The latter’s contributions in the fields of medical and healthcare solutions, from biocompatible prosthetics to human anatomy classes for better understanding of doctors, from 3D printed hearing aids to customized PPE for healthcare workers, 3D printing seems to have answered a lot of prayers.
  • Entertainment: Filmmakers, these days, swear by 3D printing, as it can help them create props and sets that are easily believable. This is mostly due to the design flexibility that the technologies offer. Art directors and set designers have more freedom in trying to bring their imagination to life on the silver screen, that too at half the costs!
  • Education: Classrooms are also getting a feel of this disruptive technology, as teachers and students both try to make learning more fun and engaging. Imagine using 3D printed replicas of objects in a science class. You not only impart valuable knowledge to your students, but the latter get to be treated to something unforgettable!

The future is bright for additive manufacturing. If you have not joined the bandwagon, the time is now. You surely do not want to miss this bus!

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