3D printing is a manufacturing process to create three dimensional models directly from digital blueprints. Usually it utilises successive layer addition technique called “additive manufacturing”. Product is created by simple horizontal layer by layer addition from bottom to the top. The main advantage is that many complex shapes that can’t be manufactured by conventional forging, casting and machining process can be easily manufactured by 3D printing. The process starts with a digital design in form of a CAD file. This CAD file is converted to STL format using special software, after this, using additive manufacturing final product is created.
Where 3D printing is used?
Though 3D printing has a lot of applications and its potential is increasing every day, some areas where 3D printing is used today are:
- Prototyping : Prototyping designs quickly to get a look and feel of parts. Aids a number of product designers accelerate their industrial design process.
- Architectural models
- Casting patterns : 3D Printers are used directly in creating patterns on which casting is done.
- Jewellery patterns
- Archaeology and Palaeontology for recreating fossils and ancient artefacts.
How to start 3D printing?
3D printer is a very innovative technology but it comes with a price. Usually 3D printers cost starts at about $500 at least. So, if you want to print something directly to a 3D model it will cost you. You can also start by simply upload your designs at Akaar, 3d and the process is simple too, simply upload the STL file, enter your details, get a relevant quote and the part will be delivered to your doorstep.
Pros and cons of 3D printing
3D printers have wide array of applications and advantages, some of them are listed as follows.
- Low cost – Though initial cost of setup is higher, overall 3d printing cost can be cheaper than conventional manufacturing particularly for complex designs.
- Prototyping – 3D printers have accelerated the overall lead time required from design to prototyping, as soon as your design is ready, [upload] your file and your model will be ready.
- Customisable materials, customised designs – 3D printing technology has made it possible to create customised human tissues and organ. As the technology develops doctors may be able to create vital organs such as heart and liver. Although a lot of it is under testing, don’t be surprised at how fast this industry will grow.
- Flexibility in products produced – 3D printing provides a wide range of products that can be manufactured, phone cases, laptop stands, pen stands, keychains, cups and the list goes on.
3D printer may seem a lucrative technology but few niggles hinders its path to become a perfect technology such as-
- Expensive compared to mass production – 3D printer may be efficient in producing complex design but for production of simpler designs conventional manufacturing techniques are still cheaper.
- Dangerous products – Ability to create any shape also poses a danger such as printing of [guns and ammunition]. Dangerous product can be created without any check or restriction.
- Size – 3D printers have a particular build volume, hence, a single printer can’t be used to create product of varying sizes.
- High initial cost- This is one of the primary reasons we have not seen 3D printers in households yet. Easy to use 3D printers are still very expensive.