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Introduction to 3D printing


Introduction to 3D printing

Do you need a dress for the party this weekend? So many cool websites we have like Koovs and Jabong etc, which save us from the trouble of physically going to the stores in the scorching summers or bone-chilling winters or the muddy monsoon. Just at some finger clicks, we can browse through the amazing collection these online stores harbour. Choose the dress, select the size and you are just a button away from owning that piece of design you so eagerly want to wear for your party (of course you have to pay the price). Only this time the button doesn’t say Buy It Now, rather it says Download It Now. Just in the matter of minutes, you can print that dress by sitting in front of your laptop. No waiting for the delivery at your doorstep!

It Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it?

Moreover, you can customise it before printing it out. No, this is neither a sci-fi story nor am I talking about 50 years into the future. 3D printing is the reality of today. And the picture drawn above is just a few years away from becoming as workaday as a brick and mortar store.

What is 3D Printing ?

3D printing is as old as the internet but not as embedded in our life. Hence it is still science fiction for a lot of us. Not all of us have heard about it. In this post, I am going to give a small overview of 3D printing.

3D printing is a revolution in manufacturing, giving ultimate control of a product to the consumer. It enables the end user to design, produce on demand and use the desired product. The consumer becomes the creator. Empowering! The process begins with an idea which is translated into a design using one of the easily available software; some for free, others for nominal costs. The printing material is fed into the printer and the design is simply printed into a physical object. It is as easy as it sounds. In addition to being so easy, there are several other advantages listed below.

Advantages of 3D Printing

If you are planning to be an entrepreneur and want to explore the business in the space of 3D printer then the below highlighted advantages are worth considering.

  • Consumers can be creators
  • Low material cost
  • Low production cost
  • Fast processing
  • 90% less material usage as compared to subtractive manufacturing
  • Less wastage as it is an additive manufacturing
  • Production site close to consumption site
  • Shipment cost eliminated
  • Requirement of economies of scale eliminated
  • No expertise required
  • Products are easy to customise
  • Reduces the need of assembling small parts
  • Complex designs can be printed
  • Digital designs are used
  • Easy design replication
  • Very low investment cost for startups

List of 3D Modelling Software

3D practitioners use some of the below mentioned software to create and optimize their designs before sending it to a slicing software. Slicing software is the actual interface with the 3D printer. It turns your design into a real object or a prototype.

  • Autodesk (Pier 9 facility)
  • Fusion360
  • TinkerCad
  • Blender
  • Mesh Mixer
  • Google Sketchup

Common 3D File Formats

These are some of the common file formats that are used to exchange files between 3D practitioners.

  • .scad - openSCAD file format
  • .stl - Stereolithographic data by 3D Systems
  • .3ds - Autodesk 3D Max
  • .obj - Warefront Technologies

Brands that make 3D Printers

Here is a list of few brands that make 3D printers. You can find these in one fo the maker spaces that you visit. 3D printers are still expensive to be procured. However, you are lucky then you may find one in a lab near your place.

  • MakerBot: Cupcake (World’s first desktop 3D printer)
  • Replicator
  • PrintrBot
  • Ultimaker: Ultimaker Original, Ultimaker 2, Ultimaker 2+
  • SlollsBot
  • Reprap (3D printable 3D printer)
  • 3D Systems
  • Stratasys
  • MCor
  • Voxel Widely used Printing Materials

Materials used in 3D printers

Some of the materials that have been successfully used in 3D printers are mentioned below.

  • Passive material - Plastic, Nylon, Resin, simulated polypropylene, HIPS
  • Metamaterials- Combination of multiple base materials
  • Active material-Intelligent material(can store data, compute, move, change shapes)
  • Liquid Metals - terminator, graphene

Classification of 3D Printing technologies

Below are some of the of types of 3D printing that you may come across. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and you may find more of these types.

Type   Description
SLS   Selective Laser Sintering is a 3D printing technology that uses high-intensity light to sinter a powdered material.
SLA   Stereolithography is a 3D printing technology which makes objects by using a high-intensity light or a laser to harden a plastic resin.
FDM   Fused Deposition Modelling is a 3D printing technology which makes the object by melting filament and extruding it through a small nozzle.


Known 3D Printing Communities

Below are some of the 3D printing communities that you can be part of. Please search them on web and enjoy being part of these to make a difference in the world.

Name Description
Hackerspace Workspace for people sharing common interests in computing machining, technology, science etc.
Thingiverse Website founded by MakerBot for creating and sharing 3D printable designs.
Soli A Google project which enables the user to create 3D objects by touchless gestures using sensing technology with miniature radars.
3DHubs A community connecting the 3D printers in over 150 countries.
Hackaday Website for sharing the projects related to 3D printing.


Conclusion

3D printing is the best, disruptive and green technology. It is going to change the world of manufacturing and our perception of this world. If you would like to know more about it, please visit the communities online or to a hackerspace in your area. I hope that you can continue to follow your passion in these difficult times. If you would like to try out and learn how to design a 3D printed mask then please visit This link and feel free to try out the design in your 3D model software and modify as you like. However, please know that trying out the design on you or others might need to be validated medically. Please team up with medical practitioner to try it out if you plan to bring it under production.

We welcome feedbacks, comments, and discussions from the readers so please feel free to do do so below this post.

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