What is 3D Printing?
What is 3D Printing
3D Printing is the process of producing a physical object from a digital 3D design file.
How does it work?
3D printing works by taking a 3d design, slicing it, using special software, into 2 dimensional layers and then extruding a hot filament, usually plastic, in precise, micro-thin layers until the complete model has been produced.
Where is it most commonly used?
3D printing has many applications and the true potential of 3d printing has yet to be realised. Currently, 3d printing is being employed in a wide variety of industries such as engineering, architecture, product design, prototyping and in the medical field, both as a research and diagnostic tool, and as a platform for producing prosthetic limbs and various other treatments.
Who is 3d printing accessible to?
Anyone with access to a 3d printer can quickly learn to produce amazing printed objects from a 3d design file. Due to the surge in popularity of 3d printing in recent years, many, good quality desktop 3d printers are available to the general public at reasonable cost. You can also make use of an online 3d printing service such as the one offered here at WePrint.ie to bring your designs to life, test a design, or protype a product.
What material does it use?
The most common materials currently used in 3d printing are plastics;PLA (Polylactic Acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). Variations of both of these materials have been developed for producing flexible, glow in the dark, electrically conductive, metallic and wood effect products. A revolutionary design has been developed in recent years by a close neighbour of ours here at WePrint, MCOR Technologies, which uses recycled paper. Elsewhere, a 3D Printer has even been developed to 3D print melted chocolate! The application of any of these materials depends on the type of object being produced and it's intended purpose.
How long does it take?
The time taken for the 3D Printing process depends on a number of factors, principally;
- The size of the object being printed
- The type of material used
- The layer height (resolution)
- The density of the finished object
Depending on the quality of finish needed, even the smallest objects can take a number of hours to print. However, 3D printing is still in it's infancy and is not yet considered mainstream. As such, 3D printing equipment is in constant development with faster and more precise equipment rapidly emerging.
How is it priced?
3D Printing is mainly priced according to the volume of material used and the time taken to produce the object. A high quality, densely filled 3D model will cost more to produce than a lower resolution prototype or concept model.
Can I 3D print, ....well, anything?
In short, yes; theoretically at least. But producing a 3D printed object is dependant on the feasibility of producing the 3D print file, as well as the practicalities of having a 3D printer with a large enough print area to produce the object. Commercially available 3D printers typically have a print are of between 200mm and 500mm Cubed and this is adequate for most 3D printing needs. Much, much larger machines have been constructed to print larger objects including a machine that can 3D print a house, although these have mostly been built as a proof of concept exercise than for any practical application.