Through 2023, 3D printing will continue its rapid growth into new markets and industrial workflows thanks to advances in materials, software and hardware technologies.
This technology makes design verification and creation quicker than traditional methods, while simultaneously decreasing the risk of defective prototypes that need reworking.
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing is a manufacturing technique that creates physical objects through deposition and fusion of layers of material, known as additive manufacturing. It differs drastically from more traditional techniques like machining or casting that build parts through subtractive techniques (cutting away larger blocks of material).
3D printing’s roots can be traced back to the early 1980s when inventor Hideo Kodama first created a machine using UV light for curing photopolymers. Soon thereafter, companies such as Desktop Manufacturing Corporation and Stratasys began manufacturing commercial-grade 3D printers.
Today, 3D printing has become a key technology across numerous industries – construction and automotive included. It enables construction teams to efficiently produce lightweight geometries faster and at lower cost with 3D printing.
Print-on-demand capabilities have also proven useful in the automotive industry, where automakers can rapidly manufacture spare parts, tools and jigs as well as end use components quickly. It has also proved invaluable to car enthusiasts looking to use 3D printing as part of restoring classic vehicles.
Benefits of 3D Printing
3D printing offers businesses several advantages. These include quicker prototyping times and the potential to reduce lead times through just-in-time and on-demand manufacturing.
The most notable advantage is being able to create parts from different materials with various properties and strengths, making this option particularly helpful when creating prototypes requiring lightweight yet strong geometries.
Machining can also help reduce your carbon footprint by cutting waste produced through traditional manufacturing processes. CNC milling and turning are excellent examples of this, since these techniques often cut away chunks of non-recyclable material which could otherwise do significant harm to the environment.
3D printing only utilizes what it needs without wasting material, thanks to following computer-aided design (CAD), layer by layer building up an object from start to finish.
Getting Started with 3D Printing
If you are exploring the possibilities of 3D printing, it is crucial to understand how best to get started. While this may be daunting, with some guidance it is possible to start producing objects.
First, you will require a 3D model to print from. This can either be found online (Thingiverse is an excellent resource) or designed yourself.
Next, download slicing software such as Cura or Prusa that will interpret and convert your STL file to Gcode that your printer can understand.
Once your printer has downloaded the slicing files, it will begin building your 3D model. Depending on its size and your printer, this process could take hours or days.
Materials for 3D Printing
Knowledge of 3D printing materials, whether at home or for business use, is essential when exploring its potential. Each material provides unique properties; some may even be more cost-effective than others.
Plastics are a common material choice for 3D printing due to their affordability, flexibility, and durability.
Conductive filaments, composed of polylactic acid (PLA) and graphene to conduct electricity, are another popular material for 3D printing. Used to print wearable electronics, touch-sensitive buttons and toys.
Composites and metals are other popular 3D printing materials, often combined with plastic for additional strength and stability.