What is 3D printing one might ask. It is one of the more modern types of technologies used in manufacturing which is sometimes known as stereo-lithography.
How it works is that it creates a 3-dimensional object with multiple layers of successive material used. The printer used to create this will derive a solid object instead of the more conventional method of printing onto a 2-D sheet of paper.
In the past, 3D printing was seen as a very costly affair but with revolutionary manufacturing and reduced cost of raw materials, they are now more affordable and you can own them from RM3,000 to RM50,000 depending on your requirements and technical specifications.
Making big sculptures from 3D printers
There are 4 major types of manufacturing technologies in 3D printing in which they all encompass the additive fabrication process. This refers to the process where an object is created through the adding of material in thin layers and then sealed together by a certain type of adhesive material.
The most common process used in this new technology is called simply 3D printing. This is the most straightforward and easy to use 3D printing method. As mentioned, it uses the additive fabrication method and is very similar to the more conventional printing method (2D) because it uses ink jet technology.
Powder substrate is used in the layering process before pigmented glue is applied to bind all the layers together once the entire 3D object is created. Among all the other technologies, 3D printing is the only one which can print in full colour.
Another technology used in 3D printing is FDM or Fused Deposition Modelling. This process differs from 3D printing where instead of using inkjet powder, the models are created through a heating process. This technology is trademarked by Stratasys and is considered to be one of the cheaper options of 3D printing where the heating and extruding of a filament of plastic material process creates the 3D object.
In Stereolithography, a model is produced through a UV light beam which is traced through a photosensitive pool of liquid and then lowered into a bath later to produce the final object. As compared to other technologies, Stereolithography is known to produce one of the highest levels of detail on the surface.
In Selective Laser Sintering or SLS, a similar process is used where instead of UV Light, laser is used while powder is used instead of the liquid used in Stereolithography. Where this is concerned, SLS is better in many ways as it is able to produce 3D objects using more variety of materials as compared to Stereolithography.
Apart from the mentioned technologies above, there are other 3D printing technologies which are growing in popularity like LOM or Laminated Object Manufacturing that uses sheets of material to form solid objects and EBM or Electron Beam Melting which is similar to SLS which is known to be more powerful in its own ways.
3D Printer Usage
The earlier form of objects made from 3D printers were mainly in the manufacturing industry. 3D printers are commonly linked to the earlier rapid prototyping machines which were used in manufacturing, most notably in terms the likes of automotive and aerospace industries.
However, with cost of production lowering in recent years, 3D printing has become more affordable and more commercially available. This makes 3D printing highly accessible not only for those who can afford but by other industries that include architecture, education, healthcare and design.
One of the major factors that 3D printers will soon become a common application among end users is that while one can buy them from the known manufacturers, which could be costly in many ways, they can choose to make their own printers as well.
Rapid prototyping machines
This is among the earliest ‘ancestors’ of 3D printer although they are known to be a lot more sophisticated than the standard 3D printers. As the name implies, these machines are used to produce prototypes quickly and they would then be enhanced or totally changed before the final product is made.
Referred to as industrial 3D printers, they have been in used since the early 1980s and are very large machines which are used for specific purposes only.
Rapid manufacturing machines – referred to as the ‘next level’ technology in 3D printing, rapid manufacturing machines are available through a cheaper production of parts which are smaller.
This technology has adapted the laser sintering technology although they are very much in the infancy stage. These machines are known to produce models in a faster speed and in a relatively short time.
Mass customization – companies are now offering all types of manufacturing services where customers can use web-based software to customize an object before they are produced. Where this is concerned, customers can now develop their own object and then channelled them to the printers for the production of their 3D objects.
End user and customer purposes – While 3D printing has often been associated with industrial and manufacturing production, the fact that 3D printing is becoming more affordable and widely available means that it can be a device used among hobbyists and end users.
While it is still at its infancy stage, 3D printers are becoming more and more inexpensive which in the near future will see them taking place of conventional printers among designers and hobbyists.
3d Designer Software & Files
In 3D printing, the software plays an important role as it is the first step into the designing stage of creating the 3D objects before they are printed and created using this technology.
In this context, it is important that the user is aware of how to use the software in order to create objects that are printable and those that are good enough. There are a lot of software out in the market which are very useful to start designing your 3D objects where they are downloadable for free. The easiest way to do this is to identify the free software which is as follow:
Top 3D designer softwares
SketchUp by Google – this is a 3D modelling software which is free and easy to learn. All you need to do is to draw the edges using the tools available from SketchUp and it is very easy, requiring minimal training to master. The most interesting option of this software is its Push and Pull option that literally changes a flat object into a 3D form.
Blender – an open source 3D content creation suit developed by NeoGeo and NaN (Not a Number Technologies) where the former is a renowned Dutch-based animation studio. It is available for use in most platforms under the General Public License (GNU) and is one of the best 3D software which is free as it contains some features that are only available in the higher end applications.
Open SCAD – as the name implies, the Open SCAD application is best used for creating CAD (Computer-Aided Design) models. The main focus of this software is in the CAD aspects and not so much on the artistic elements. The free software is developed for use in platforms like Windows, Mac OS X and on Linux and Unix.
3Dtin – the 3Dtin is a browser based 3D modelling software which can be launched for free through the internet. The drawback for this application is that speed might be an issue as it works only online although it is very convenient.
Tinkercad – this software is perhaps the most exciting one among all others because it uses only 3 basic tools and it can then be created in the STL file to be channelled to the 3D Printer.
File types used in 3D Printing are as follow: AMF – Additive Manufacturing File which is an open standard adopted in 3D printing of the additive manufacturing process. It is known to have support for more elements, unlike STL files. All our printers are ready with any files produced by any software above, please check with us on the software before your purchase.