How Does it Work? - 3D Printers

 If you can think it, you can print it!

How Does it Work? "3D Printers" - DeJays' BLog

3D printing is part of a family of manufacturing technology called additive manufacturing. This describes the creation of an object by adding material to the object layer by layer. Basically, if you printed on the same page a couple hundred times the ink would build up enough to create a 3D model of the characters. 

A typical 3D printer is very much like an inkjet printer operated from a computer. It builds up a 3D model one layer at a time, from the bottom upward, by repeatedly printing over the same area in a method known as fused depositional modeling (FDM).  The process of 3D can take hours or even days, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

How Does it Work? "3D Printers" - DeJays' BLog

3D printers can print in plastic, concrete, metal, and even animal cells. But most printers will be designed to use only one type of material. Examples of 3D printed objects include; prosthetic limbs and other body parts, homes and other buildings, food, medicine, firearms, liquid structures, movie props, musical instruments, clothing. 

Common Variations of 3D Printing

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 

FDM technology is currently the most popular 3D printing technology and is used in both affordable 3D printers and even 3D pens. FDM as stated above is basically 2D printing over and over again. The printer heats the thermoplastic until its melting point and extrudes it throughout the nozzle on a printing bed, which you may know as a build platform or a desk, on a predetermined pattern determined by the 3D model and Slicer software. Each time a layer is completed the nozzle moves up just a little bit to print the next layer on top of it.

This method can be used to print operational prototypes as well as ready-for-use products such as lego, plastic gears

Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA 3D printers operate with an excess of liquid plastic that after a while hardens and forms a solid object. These machines work by shining ultraviolet light into a pool of photoreactive resin. Any resin struck by the light solidifies and forms a layer of the object. After the plastic hardens a stage of the printer drops down in the tank a fraction of a millimeter and the laser forms another layer until printing is finished.  These tend to create objects with much finer details than FDM printers.  

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

It prints by flashing a high-powered laser over a bed of powdered material in the vat rather than liquid resin fusing the particles together to form a thin solidified layer. The machine then sweeps more powder over the top of that layer and repeats the process until the object is completed.

It's often used on the industrial side to create large durable objects out of nylon, glass, and ceramics to some metals such as aluminum, silver, or steel. SpaceX uses this process to print its Draco Rocket Engines.

How Does it Work? "3D Printers" - DeJays' BLog

The 3D Printing industry is evolving and is being utilized in various other sectors. Scientists have gone from printing lenses to custom prosthetic implants to hearts which would be fully functional in due time. Shoemakers are also 3D printing various materials for footwear much faster. Even homes can be built in a day using this technology. Certain food substances like steak are also being 3D printed using special resins. 2021 is shaping up to be an exciting year for 3D Printing! 

Sources: Independent, Interesting Engineering, ExplainthatStuff!, Digital Trends


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