What is 3D Printing
3D printing or Additive manufacturingis a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes
The basics: Software and hardware
3D printing starts with the software.The typically recommended softwares are
- Google SketchUp (sketchup.google.com),
- OpenSCAD (www.openscad.org),
- Solid Works (www.solidworks.com).
Another application called Skeinforge (www.skeinforge.com) slices up the data into printable chunks. This app produces the code that’s used to send commands to the printer, and another program called RepSnapper loads the code and controls the printer.
Using the software, you first design an object you want to print. This can be as simple as a butter knife or as complex as a ship, but the process is roughly the same: You set the coordinates for the design and then send the coordinates to the 3D printer, which uses a substrate material to sculpt the model.
There are several options when it comes to 3D printing kits, MakerGear and Makerbot kits. The RepRap.org kit is another low-cost way to build your own 3D printer, and once you have assembled the 3D printer at home, you can then use the printer to create a second model.
“The best software suites out there for designing are probably Solidworks and Autodesk Inventor, which are used by engineers and usually run about $3,000 per license,” says Enrique Muyshondt, the president of desktopFab (www.desktopfab.com), a 3D printer company based in Texas. “There are other options, though, including the recently released Autodesk 123D Software (www.123dapp.com) that provide a good, easy-to-use, and fairly intuitive design interface for free.”
A commercial product from 2Bot called the ModelMaker (www.2bot.com) costs between $9,000 and $12,000 and comes with all the modeling software, called 2Bot Studio, and video training you need. One key difference between a commercial 3D printer and one you assemble yourself is that the kit is typically designed for the non-expert to get started right away. For example, the software can load models from Thingiverse (www.thingiverse.com) and the Google 3DWarehouse (http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse ).
Another difference between a commercial 3D printer kit and the ones you build yourself like the RepRap is the cost of materials.
The most common uses for a 3D printer today is creating toy models. For example, hobbyists will create a new design for a miniature train as part of a complete set, then print out all of the parts required, assemble them by hand, and paint the finished train.
Note that, one final step in the 3D printing process involves curing the model. In some cases, the 3D printer itself will take care of this, but home kits usually require that you use a curing chamber or a chemical bath to solidify the print and prepare it for handling.
Applications of 3D Printing
3D printing makes digital dentistry happen
For a growing number of dental lab owners, digital dentistry is already here. With 3D printing as part of their business strategy, dental labs can speed part production while improving quality and precision.
3D printing lets you customize when timing is critical
When customized equipment is vital and deadlines are non-negotiable, 3D printing gives government, military and defense manufacturers the freedom to design a single end-use part, quickly create low-volume tooling, or build complex, precise prototypes.
Get the next big thing to market faster with 3D printing
Timing can be as important as the idea itself. In the competitive consumer products field, in-house 3D printing enhances collaboration, shrinks time to market, and helps keep new devices under wraps until launch.
Build detailed, durable models with 3D printing
Seeing is believing. Stratasys 3D Printing helps architectural firms seize more opportunities by creating complex, durable models in-house, directly from CAD data.