How Does 3D Printer Work? And What Can It Be Used For

How Does 3D Printer Work? And What Can It Be Used For 

Before computer-aided design (CAD) and lasers, models and prototypes were painstakingly carved from wood or glued together from small pieces of card or plastic. They can take days or even weeks to make and are usually very expensive. Getting changes or alterations made was difficult and time-consuming, especially if an outside model-making company was used, which could discourage designers from making improvements or taking last-minute comments into consideration: "It's too late!"

3D Printers, How They Work.

With the advancement of technology, an idea known as rapid prototyping (RP) arose in the 1980s as a solution to this problem: it refers to the development of models and prototypes using more automated methods, usually in hours or days rather than the weeks that traditional prototyping required. 3D printing is a logical extension of this concept, in which product designers use sophisticated machines similar to inkjet printers to create their own rapid prototypes in hours.

Consider making a traditional wooden car prototype. You'd start with a solid wood block and carve inward, like a sculptor, gradually revealing the "hidden" object inside. Alternatively, if you wanted to make an architect's model of a house, you'd build it like a real, prefabricated house, most likely by cutting miniature replicas of the walls out of card and gluing them together. Now, a laser could easily carve wood into shape, and training a robot to stick cardboard together isn't out of the question—but 3D printers don't work in either of these ways!

 A typical 3D printer is similar to an inkjet printer that is controlled by a computer. It creates a 3D model one layer at a time, from the bottom up, by printing over the same area repeatedly, a technique known as fused depositional modeling (FDM). The printer creates a model over hours by converting a 3D CAD drawing into a slew of two-dimensional, cross-sectional layers—effectively separate 2D prints that sit one on top of the other, but without the paper in between. Instead of ink, which would never accumulate in large quantities, the printer deposits layers of molten plastic or powder and fuses them together (and to the existing structure) with adhesive or ultraviolet light.


Applications

What can a 3D printer be used for? It's akin to asking, "How many different ways can you use a photocopier?" The only limit, in theory, is your imagination. In practice, the limits are the precision of your printer, the accuracy of the model from which you print, and the materials you print with. Modern 3D printing was invented about 25 years ago, but it has only recently begun to gain traction. Even though much of the technology is still in its early stages, the range of applications for 3D printing is quite astounding.


Aerospace and defense

Designing and testing airplanes is a complex and costly business: a Boeing Dreamliner contains approximately 2.3 million components! Although computer models can be used to test many aspects of plane behavior, accurate prototypes are still required for things like wind tunnel testing. And 3D printing is a quick and easy way to accomplish this. While commercial planes are mass-produced, military planes are more likely to be highly customized—and 3D printing allows for the rapid and cost-effective design, testing, and manufacturing of low-volume or one-off parts.


Spacecraft are even more complex than airplanes, and they have the additional disadvantage of being "manufactured" in small quantities—sometimes only one is ever made. Rather than incurring the expense of developing one-of-a-kind tools and manufacturing equipment, it may make far more sense to 3D print one-of-a-kind components. But why create space parts on Earth in the first place? Shipping complex and heavy structures into space is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming; the ability to manufacture items on the Moon or other planets could be extremely useful. It's easy to imagine astronauts (or even robots) using 3D printers to create whatever objects (including spare parts) they require, far from Earth, whenever they need them. However, even traditional, Earth-born space projects can benefit from 3D printing's speed, simplicity, and low cost. The latest NASA Rover, which is capable of supporting humans, is made up of 3D-printed parts manufactured with the assistance of Stratasys.

Designing and testing airplanes is a complex and costly business: a Boeing Dreamliner contains approximately 2.3 million components! Although computer models can be used to test many aspects of plane behavior, accurate prototypes are still required for things like wind tunnel testing. And 3D printing is a quick and easy way to accomplish this. While commercial planes are mass-produced, military planes are more likely to be highly customized—and 3D printing allows for the rapid and cost-effective design, testing, and manufacturing of low-volume or one-off parts.

Visualization

Making prototypes of airplanes or space rockets is one example of a much broader application for 3D printing: visualizing how new designs will appear in three dimensions. Of course, we can use virtual reality for this, but people often prefer things they can see and touch. 3D printers are increasingly being used for rapid, accurate architectural modeling. Although we can't (yet) 3D print in materials like brick and concrete, there are a variety of plastics that can be painted to look like realistic building finishes. Similarly, 3D printing is now widely used for prototyping and testing industrial and consumer goods. Because many everyday items are made of plastic, a 3D printed model can look very similar to the finished product, making it ideal for focus-group testing or market research.

Personalized products

From plastic toothbrushes to candy wrappers, modern life is here today and gone tomorrow—convenient, cheap, and disposable. However, not everyone appreciates mass production, which is why expensive "designer labels" are so popular. More of us will be able to enjoy the benefits of affordable, highly personalized products made to our exact specifications in the future. Already, jewelry and fashion accessories are 3D printed. Zazzy has now replicated the Etsy website's creation of a global community of artisan crafters using 3D printing technology. Anyone, thanks to simple online services like Shapeways, can create their own 3D printed trinkets, either for themselves or to sell to others, without the expense and hassle of owning a 3D printer (even Staples is now offering 3D printing services in some of its stores).

"Customized products" aren't just things we buy and use; they can also include the food we eat. Cooking takes time, skill, and patience because preparing a delectable meal entails much more than simply mixing ingredients and heating them on a stove. Because most foods can be extruded (squeezed through nozzles), they can also be 3D printed (theoretically). Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories amusingly printed some strange objects out of sugar a few years ago.

A.J. Jacobs, a New York Times columnist, challenged himself in 2013 to print an entire meal—including the plate and cutlery. During the process, he came across the work of Cornell University's Hod Lipson, who believes that meals will one day be 3D printed to meet your body's exact nutritional needs. This brings us neatly to the present...

The future of 3D printing

Many people believe that 3D printing will usher in a revolution in the manufacturing industry and the global economy that it drives, rather than just a tidal wave of brash, plastic gimmicks. Although 3D printing will undoubtedly enable us to create our own objects, there is a limit to what you can accomplish on your own with a cheap printer and a tube of plastic. When large corporations adopt 3D printing as a central pillar of the manufacturing industry, real economic benefits are likely to emerge. 

Designing and testing airplanes is a complex and costly business: a Boeing Dreamliner contains approximately 2.3 million components! Although computer models can be used to test many aspects of plane behavior, accurate prototypes are still required for things like wind tunnel testing. And 3D printing is a quick and easy way to accomplish this. While commercial planes are mass-produced, military planes are more likely to be highly customized—and 3D printing allows for the rapid and cost-effective design, testing, and manufacturing of low-volume or one-off parts.
First, manufacturers will be able to offer much more customization of existing products, combining the affordability of off-the-shelf mass-production with the allure of one-of-a-kind, bespoke artisan craft. Second, because 3D printing is essentially a robotic technology, it will reduce manufacturing costs to the point where it will be cost-effective to manufacture items in North America and Europe that are currently being assembled cheaply (by poorly paid humans) in places like China and India.

Finally, 3D printing will increase productivity (because fewer people will be required to make the same things), lowering overall production costs, which should lead to lower prices and increased demand—which is always a good thing for consumers, manufacturers, and the economy.


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James Knox

Hi, My Name Is James, I'm A Life Insurance Agent, Photographer, And Dropshipper, Based In Missouri. Welcome To My Blog.

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