In 2019, the adoption of new manufacturing technology has revolutionised the manufacturing and commercial sector. This new “technology” is known as 3D printing or additive manufacturing. We can guarantee that at some point you have seen or heard about 3D printing. The machine that allows you to create amazing tools, toys or specific parts from a 3D computer model. So what exactly is 3D printing or additive manufacturing? How does it work and what can it actually do?
We answer all these questions and look at the application of additive manufacturing.
What is 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing?
3D printing is the common household term used to describe creating a physical object by printing it. It prints the object by applying material one layer at a time until the final object is completely created. This process, in terms of industry knowledge, is called additive manufacturing. We call this additive manufacturing because a set amount of material is added to create the part. When compared to the conventional method of manufacturing (subtractive, formative and joining), parts are usually created by removing a certain amount of material which creates waste.
A Brief History of 3D Printing
3D printing or additive manufacturing has been around for decades. The very first 3D printer was realised by Chuck Hell from 3D Systems in 1987 and it used a printing method called stereolithography (SLA). Thereafter, in the ’90s and 2000s, more 3D printing technologies emerged. These included the Fused Filament Deposition (FDM) by Stratasys and Laser Sintering by 3D Systems and specific to industrial prototyping.
Why Are 3D Printers Commercially Available?
In 2009, all patents for the FDM printing method ended. This meant that companies, makers or even individuals could build their very own printers. The birth of low-cost 3D printers was initiated by the RepRap project and was later adopted by various printer brands available today.
The Additive Manufacturing Process
The general 3D printing process in creating a physical part, starts with a computer-aided design (CAD) or digital model. The model is usually saved as a stereolithography CAD file (STL) and converted into a set of machine instructions known as G-code. This prepares it for printing and may be 3D printed after selecting the appropriate printer settings. Depending on the type of printer used post-processing will be required to get the best possible surface finish. The final stage of the additive manufacturing process involves cleaning and in some cases assembling the final product.
Benefits of 3D Printing
It is important to realize that additive manufacturing is rapidly developing. We are at a stage where a form of additive manufacturing has become accessible to almost everyone, mainly due to the introduction of desktop 3D printers. This new digital age of manufacturing method has its unique advantages but also has many limitations or disadvantages.
10 Common Advantages of Additive Manufacturing
- Faster Production for Prototyping.
- Unlimited Design Variations.
- Complex Designs.
- Reduced Material Waste Compared to Conventional Manufacturing.
- Advanced Customization.
- Cost Effective Designing Process.
- Better Quality.
- Fast Product Testing.
- Range of Materials.
- Reduced Product Design Risk.
10 Common Disadvantages & Limitations of Additive Manufacturing
- Harmful Material Emissions.
- The additive manufacturing method is Slow in certain circumstances.
- Copyright Infringements.
- Job Losses in the Manufacturing Industry.
- Not User-Friendly (usually not the easiest technology to get into).
- High Energy Consumption.
- Predominately uses Plastic Material.
- Lower Strength due to Anisotropic Material Structure.
- Limited Accuracy.
- More Expensive for Higher Volume Production.
After many decades of making this technology a reality, this is only the beginning in unleashing the potential for an industry breakthrough. Here at 3DWhip, we hope this article has educated you more about 3D printing and inspire you to create using this new technology.