3D Printing or additive manufacturing, is a process for production of a three-dimensional object from a digital 3D modell or CAD-file 3D printing was first developed as a method for rapid prototyping and small models, but has grown to a more widespread and well-developed produciton method in later years. It all starts by designing a 3D model on a computer, then a slicer program is used to convert the 3D model to a format the printer can understand. This is then loaded onto the printer and production can be started. Then, all that remains is to wait for the printer to finish. The main difference between 3D printing and traditional methods is that 3D printing used additive manufacturing principles to produce parts. Additive manufacturing is a process of adding material in a controlled manner to produce advanced shapes while ensuring structural integrity. More traditional methods involve removing material to create the desired shapes.
How does 3D printing work?
3D -printing refers to a newer generation of machines that utilize additive manutfacturing in order to produce almost anything. They are noteworthy since one machine can be used to make many different types of object, with different materials and shapes. 3D printing can be used to produce just about anything from ceramic cups to plastic toys, machine parts in metal, concrete constructions, fancy chocolate or even replacement body parts.
Fused filament fabrication (FFF) is the most widely used method for 3D printing. FFF is a process where a thermoplastic filament is slowly deposited in a controlled manner, layer by layer. This prosess is what gives the produced parts a “stripy” appearance. The orientation of the stripes depends on the positioning of the part on the bed and the movements of the printing nozzle. This method allows for creation of advanced shapes and geometries. This process can be compared to building with Lego blocks, where each layer is a lego block being attached onto each other to build upwards in the model.
3D printing turns the complete object into hundreds or thousands of small layers and slowly builds it up layer by layer. The small layers bond together to form an almost solid object. Each layer can have complex forms and shapes, provided it has a surface below to bond to. This means that 3D printing kan be used to make moving parts like a hinge or bearings printed in one part. It opens the possibilities to print an entire bicycle- steering, saddle, frame, wheels, brakes, pedals and chain – All completely assembled without the need for tools. It is just a case of having holes in the right place, having the correct bed orientation, correct geometries and materials with the right properties.
Additional materials can be added to plastic filaments in order to provide desired properties, for example carbon fiber, glass fiber, wood fibers, iron, graphen, copper, aluminium or ceramic powder. With the correct choice of materials a wide variety of properties can be acheived, from antistatic to conductivity or even just a pretty appearance. Read more here.
Opportunities and limitations
Opportunities for 3D Printing
Have you ever broken something, only to find out that replacement parts are no longer produced and sold? as well as you can’t replace it? 3D printing allows you to relatively easily print a new one. It also opens the door to custom and bespoke products spesially-designed for your specific needs. In the future, it will mean furniture adapted to your home, shoes adapted to your feet, meals that are printed to your liking at the touch of a button. Even medications, bones, organs, and skin made to treat injuries and illness.
Limitations of 3D printing
Even though 3D printing opens alot of opportunities, it’s not always the perfect solution for every problem. 3D printing is a fantastic way to produces prototypes in order to see the physical shape and test functionality, without the need to setup a large-scale production in a factory. For large-scale production of large objects, the traditional methods are typically more suitable.
Part of a larger prototype.
Abrasion resistant attachment for a handle.
3D printed switch
Antistatic plastic holding a circuit breaker.
3D-Design av a drawer for an ROV