TechDogs-Explore "The World Of 3D Printing"

Emerging Technology

Explore The World Of 3D Printing

By TechDogs

TechDogs
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Overview

"Call it magic, call it truth." - Magic by Coldplay 

The legendary British rock band might have written this chartbuster to describe the magical feeling that you may have for the lady love of your life. At TechDogs, we feel that the song is also perhaps an apt analogy to explain a similar emotion when you see 3D Printing in action. 3D Printing is one of the most sought-after and talked about trending manufacturing techniques over traditional manufacturing of the 21st century. Period! In this article, we will talk about what technology is, how it works and what led to the creation of this larger-than-life technology.

Don't worry; we will also give you a breakdown of all the complicated terminologies you need to understand. Finally, we will visit some industries that 3D Printing has transformed forever. So, let's get on with it.
TechDogs-Who Di, Ni? It's Like Magic, Only Real!-"3D Printing"
Your long-awaited delivery from IKEA finally arrives; a beautiful acacia storage unit. You hastily open up the box like a six-year-old at Christmas only to find that you need to assemble the product yourself. Ugh!

You carefully lay down all the pieces on the table; 2 brackets, 12 screws, 6 wood panels, 4 leg caps and a few weird-looking parts you hope are spare. Ahh! The unit is almost assembled; you just need to put up the 4 leg caps but wait - you can only find three and one is missing. Come to think of it, wasn't Brenda just vacuuming? Or did the cap just pull a Houdini disappearing act?

Ah, caps - their disappearing act is actually better than Houdini's. You look for them - under the table, inside the box, and even in your pockets but to no avail. "Lost! My precious is lost!" you wail like Gollum. Just as you're making peace with the fact that your storage unit will never be able to do the balancing act, you set your gaze on the 3D printer you got last week. Why didn't you think of it before?!

Using 3D Printing, you can easily create your leg cap - heck, you could even print a few prototype extra ones! That's the magic of 3D Printing - it can provide you anything you want, from leg caps to an entire cabinet to hold the caps. Sounds fascinating, right?

Let's learn a thing or two about 3D Printing while the leg caps are being printed.
 

What Is 3D Printing?


To put it simply, 3D Printing gives you the power to create or download 3D models of objects as simple as a flowerpot or a mobile cover to as complex as a 3D-printed pedestrian bridge (yes, there is a 3D printed bridge in Amsterdam!) and use specialized machinery to print it. Technically, it creates the object by material extrusion, layer by layer, using a bottom-up approach. Don't worry if the meaning is foggy like a morning in Alaska; we are confident, by the time you're done reading this article, it'll be crystal clear like the sunset in Miami.
 

History Of 3D Printing


Remember when the legendary Michael Jordan played in his inaugural season? That was in 1984. The first substantial advancement in 3D Printing happened in the same year. "A Legendary Coincidence," we think. In this year, Charles "Chuck" Hull was frustrated with how long it took to build small parts for the furniture company he worked for, so he wanted to find out a way to make it faster and better. He thought of a way to use ultraviolet bulbs to make a resin turn into a solid, layer-by-layer, to create the parts he wanted.

When he realized that this method, worked, he applied for a patent and coined this technology 'Stereolithography', which marked the humble birth of modern 3D Printing techniques.

Hull didn't stop there - in 1986, he started his own company - 3D Systems - and created the world's first "3D Printer" in the year 1992. Since then, there have been numerous advancements in 3D Printing. In the last three decades, not only has it been available to almost everyone who wishes to try their hand at creating 3D objects at home but scientists are also printing functional prototypes such as tissues and organs with this tech.

Enough of the history lecture; let's jump right into what it means to "3D Print" something.
 

Let's 3D Print, Shall We?


Before learning to fly, you must learn to walk. Before you know 3D Printing, you need to learn a little about additive manufacturing and its "evil twin" subtractive manufacturing.


Additive And Subtractive Manufacturing


Imagine a carpenter who wants to create a wooden doughnut from a block of wood. He uses his sander to create the shape of the donut - a disk with rounded edges. Then he uses his driller to make one hole in the center of the disc, then uses the sander again to smoothen the hole he just made. In the process, he generates a lot of waste material, such as wood shavings and dust. You may have noticed that he went on, decreasing the wooden block's content until he got the shape he wanted. This is a subtractive manufacturing process because, during the process, the material liquid resin is used for manufacturing loses a part of its content.

Now, guess what additive manufacturing means.

It is a manufacturing process that makes the product layer by layer - think of building a sandcastle at the beach. This is not a scientifically accurate example but let's use it for the sake of explanation. Okay, back to building sandcastles. You start with the base, then the walls of the castle and the tower, and then the tower's roof and top. Let's analyze the process now. You started from nothing and built your way up - layer by layer. This is the basic idea behind additive manufacturing, where you keep adding your building material, layer by layer until you achieve the design you want.

Pop Quiz: Which process do you think is more suitable for 3D Printing?

Yep, Additive manufacturing is the basis of 3D Printing. Imagine printing this article on a paper - you'd do it line by line, right? Just like that, for 3D Printing, you print an object layer by layer.

Additive manufacturing, done. Let's dive into the 3D Printing process.


The Process

 
  • Preparing A Model

    What's the first thing you have when you make something? A plan, right? If you're building a house, you have a blueprint. If you're making a snack, you have a recipe. 3D Printing works the same way too. When you're trying to 3D print something, the plan you have is called the object's 3D model.

  • Talking In Printer-Tongue

    The next step is converting this 3D model to a language that the 3D printer can understand. This is because machines can only understand the language they were programmed to understand - just like your computer can only recognize 0's and 1's (AKA, binary language), 3D printers can only understand files written in specific formats - STL (Standard Tessellation Language) and AMF (Additive Manufacturing File) are the most common ones.

  • Communicating To The Printer

    Now that the 3D printer understands what we want, we'll go ahead and feed the file into the printer. Then we'll specify the dimensions of our printed object - how big you want it to be, how wide - you get to choose everything.

  • Choose The Juice

    In this step, you set up the printer for the job. This is a crucial step because this is where you choose the printing material for the job. Printing materials are usually thermoplastics - a fancy name for materials that become soft at a specific temperature and then harden when it is cooled. This material is chosen according to the requirement - if you're printing an action hero model - you'd probably use some plastic, if you're printing a house, use cement and for cookies, you use cookie dough - get the idea? Newer advancements allow you to print using metals, organic tissues, and many more materials. (Yes, you read that right!)

  • Now We Print

    Now we start the printing process. The 'printing' is done layer by layer. Imagine that we're printing a model of Captain America - we'll first start with the sole of his shoe, layer by layer. Then the top of his shoes, his calves, and of course, America's Ass, the shield on his back, then we work up his body until we get the full action figure. The time taken for printing takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the size of the object.


Stay with us, we're almost done!
 
  • Final Touches

    The last step is where we take the printed object for some post-processing – like additional polishing and smoothening – kind of like editing a video.


We know when 3D Printing began and now, we know how  to do it. Let's see where we can use it.


Where Is 3D Printing Now And Where Is It Heading?

 
TechDogs-Know More About 3D Printing-Image Of "3D Printer" Printing A 3D Model Of A Car

Let’s meet some of the industries and companies who have played the 3D Printing game to their advantage.

The manufacturing industry has hit the jackpot with 3D Printing. With additive manufacturing technology, things can be designed, prototyped, and brought to the market in a relatively shorter time. This, in turn, has given rise to this whole new trend in prototyping, called rapid prototyping.

Rapid prototyping is the most significant change in manufacturing methodologies that is solely attributed to 3D Printing. Rapid prototyping is the process of making a 3D model or a 3d design of a product for testing its physical aspects, like its dimensions or usability.

Rolls Royce, one of the most well-known and luxurious car manufacturers, has incorporated 3D Printing techniques to make over 10K production parts in the Phantom - their flagship car. 3D Printed parts are even used for the restoration of centuries-old cars, whose components are not in production anymore - good news for the vintage enthusiasts!

An excellent example of where rapid prototyping has worked its magic is the medical industry. Did you know that doctors and surgeons extensively use 3D printed models of complex organs like the kidney and liver to plan their surgeries? They can even practice on them - minimizing the risk of the patient and their recovery time. Cutting-edge research is being conducted to study the possibilities of transplanting organs like a heart to significantly reduce the wait time for the patients who require them to just a few days.


And Pretty Much Everywhere Else!

 
3D Printing is being used for producing a lot of daily use objects, such as eyewear, footwear, prosthetics, and even airplane parts. The technology has been around for quite a while and now's the best time to get into it, as industries are looking for ways to optimize their manufacturing processes and 3D Printing service has a promising role to play there. With broader adoption, 3D Printing is becoming more affordable and it will only be a few more years before we all own 3D printers. Broke your coffee mug? Print a new one. Did Kid break your window? Print a new one - wait, we mean a new window. Feeling hungry? Print your food. Although that isn't currently possible, we might just be able to print our favorite food in the future. Thoughts? More like food for thought.

Bonus fact – 3D Printing is also being termed as a new 'hobby.' People who have access to 3D printers are just making things for themselves – because some of them couldn't get a replacement part for their faucet anywhere on the internet, some couldn't find the perfect vase for their flowers and for others, it's just pure fun. The limits are, well, as far as the thermoplastics – or the ink – takes us, to 'inkfinity' (and beyond?).

That's 3D Printing for you. We really hope you've got an idea of what this technology is and how far we've come since Michael Jordan's debut. In the process, we also learned how 3D Printing works, where it's being used and how it is becoming more and more common.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is 3D Printing and how does it work?


3D Printing is a technology that enables the creation of three-dimensional objects from digital models. It works by building the object layer by layer, using additive manufacturing techniques. This means that instead of subtracting material from a solid block (like in traditional manufacturing methods), 3D Printing adds material gradually to create the desired shape. Objects are created using specialized machinery that follows instructions from a digital file, often in formats like STL or AMF, to build up the object layer by layer until it's complete.

What are the applications of 3D Printing in different industries?


3D Printing has diverse applications across various industries. In manufacturing, it facilitates rapid prototyping, allowing companies to design, test, and iterate on product designs quickly. Industries like automotive and aerospace are using 3D Printing to produce custom parts, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. In the medical field, 3D Printing is used for creating personalized medical implants, prosthetics, and even organ models for surgical planning. Other sectors, such as fashion, eyewear, and architecture, also benefit from the versatility of 3D Printing technology, enabling custom designs and innovative solutions.

How accessible is 3D Printing for personal use?


3D Printing technology has become increasingly accessible for personal use in recent years. While industrial-grade 3D printers are still relatively expensive, there's a growing market for consumer-level and hobbyist 3D printers that are more affordable and user-friendly. Many online platforms offer access to a wide range of 3D models that users can download and print at home. With the expanding availability of materials and advancements in printing technology, more people are experimenting with 3D Printing for DIY projects, repairs, and creative endeavors.

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Tags:

3D Printing Additive Manufacturing 3D Printing Process Rapid Prototyping 3D Printing In Automotive Industry 3D Printing In ManufacturingSubtractive Manufacturing

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