3D Printing Basics for Beginners

We all have been hearing about the amazing world of 3D printing and the storm in the form of revolutionizing the manufacturing sector. This very concept will turn the current manufacturing process of machining, fabrication, casting and stamping a thing of past. So, what is it? Broadly speaking a process to manufacture 3D objects of any geometrical dimension by using digital model data derived from a 3D model.

There are two aspects of 3D object printing. The first, all the data of the object to be printed in digital format and second, and a machine that reads the digital data and pours in layer after layer of the manufacturing materials to create the final product. Example: you have a tube of toothpaste and you start squeezing it while drawing different shapes. But in real life scenario the deposition of materials to form the final object is controlled by a computer’s 3D images and the digital dimensional data provided by it.

A New Approach

The current process of manufacturing is a subtracting one and the new technology of 3D printing is additive one. If we have to make a pulley, today we cast it first and then using machining process slice away parts until you have the final product of the right dimensions. Something likes stone sculpting. You chisel out unwanted stone to get the final carving. 3D printing on the other hand is the exact reverse. You keep adding material in the exact proportion until you get the final shape as guided by a digital data feed. So, there is no material waste. There are quite a lot of that go into making a 3D printer. The important being the computer system that controls the movements to the exact nano dimension, the modelling and finishing.

New avenues in development

The official term used by the United States of America and the ISO technical standards committee is Additive Manufacturing (AM) to broadly define the process. Today this technology can be applied to almost anything. It is used in the making of Pizza, chocolates and other food items. It has been so fascinating that NASA has their eyes set on using this technology to print food in space. This technology has found its way into 3D printing of dresses, automobiles, aerospace and medical science with joint replacement and craniomaxillofacial reconstructions. Soon you would probably have a 3D printer at home that would be good enough to prepare you breakfast, lunch and dinner. That makes you thing if one day you could have a printer that could make a gun or a customized mobile phone for you. Well, that is a possibility. All we can say right now is that the process, standards and the laws governing them are in its infancy. With clear thinking and refinement everything would be put into place and we would have the right system in place.

With worldwide interest generated in this new concept, funds are being poured into research and development to refine the process. Today we can have a 3D printer for around $1000 though a very basic printer device.