The ABCs of 3D printers

Written by Bruce Hughes on . Posted in Tech

In the past years, technology has managed to reach its highest point of development. Modern techniques, futuristic trends and new gadgets seem to appear overnight, helping us improve our lives and perform tasks easier. 3D printing, for instance, is an incredibly useful creating that can be used for so many purposes, ranging from medicine to manufacturing and design. You may be familiar with traditional printing, but this innovative technique is much more complex. Instead of creating files and documents, you can now use a special printing device, able to offer you an actual object. While some time ago, this could have sounded impossible, nowadays it is really doable – as amazing as this may sound, there is a special machine.

What exactly is 3D printing?

If you are thinking about 3D printing, you may think you have things figured out. The process, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to a wide array of procedures aimed to create three dimensional solid objects following a digital sketch file. During the printing, several layers of material are successively modelled under computerised control, in order to make the object ‘ordered’ by the user. The resulting items can be of almost any geometry and form, as long as they are accurately recreated after a 3D model or any other electronic data source. As far as the printing device used, it can be considered a special industrial robot.

 

How much does a 3D printer cost?

Taking into consideration that the technology used is rather modern and futuristic, not everyone may afford purchasing a 3D printer. Needless to say, not everybody needs one – actually, although the device is used extensively, it has several particular uses. As a result, depending on what it is used for and how intricate the objects it has to create are, a 3D printer price may vary.

 

How does 3D printing work?

3D printing is a complex process, quite similar with traditional printing, except that it involves a succession of steps and more technologies. To begin with, the designer starts with making a virtual design of the object they are planning to create. Generally, the prototype is created from scratch or copied after an existing item, in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file, with a special modelling program or a 3D scanner. This way, a completely new object is about to appear. Although it may seem that the pattern is the same one, it is important for you to know that 3D scanners use different technologies to generate a certain model, depending on the need of the user and the resulting object. Structured / modulated light, time of flight or volumetric scanning are only some of the most popular procedures. This means that not all printers use the same creation process. The differences lie in the way material layers are built in order to make the final object. Sometimes, softening or even melting the material is required to make possible the deposition of thin layers one above the other.