A Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing

Although 3D printing technology has been around for decades, many people are not yet familiar with it, including its benefits, advantages, and how it works.

The purpose of this article is to educate individuals, entities, and business organizations to learn more about this innovative technology and how it can help them. 

Whether you are new to this technology or just looking for additional information, we’re delighted you stopped by. 

We hope you find this article very useful. If you’re ready, then let’s get started.

What Is 3D Printing?

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D technology is the process of converting three-dimensional objects from a computer-aided design model into a physical form using an additive process that lays down successive thin layers of materials until the object is formed.

How does it Work?

The process always starts with a 3D digital model created using a variety of 3D software programs such as 3D CAD, or it can also be scanned using a 3D scanner. 

After the model is uploaded or scanned, it will be sliced into layers and converted to the design to be readable by the 3D printer. After this process, the part is ready to be built. 

There are a variety of 3D technologies and 3D printers available, and each technology uses different materials to process or produce the final product. The reason why there are different materials and applications is that there is no one solution that fits all.

Most 3D printing services follow a product development cycle to guide them throughout the manufacturing process. 

Types of 3D Print Technologies and Processes

Since its inception, 3D printing processes have widely evolved. Today, 3D companies are utilizing a variety of processes and technologies, including Stereolithography, Laser sintering or Laser melting, Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Polyjet, Material Jetting, and Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL), and more.

We will only explain the three most commonly used processes. 

Fused Deposition Modelling

This process is commonly used in constructing aircraft’s interior components and ducting, as well as in the field of medical, consumer goods, industrial, and transportation.

This solution works with production-grade thermoplastics to build strong, durable, and dimensionally stable parts with the best accuracy and repeatability of any 3D technology.

Laser Sintering

Laser Sintering is also one of the most widely used 3D printing plastic technologies for aerospace ducting and similar rugged, high temperature uses. Its applications are also evident in the automotive, medical, consumer, art, and architecture sectors.

Among other processes, it is the only solution that is completely free from added support structures. It uses lightweight material with exceptional strength to deliver fuel tanks, ailerons, control surfaces, and other critical UAV features.

Polyjet

Polyjet is the fastest 3D technology commercially available that jets and cures thin layers of liquid photopolymer using UV energy. It is an excellent option for realistic, high-resolution models and prototypes, short-run injection molds, and master patterns for urethane casting. PolyJet relies on photopolymer resins to build smooth, detailed prototypes that deliver final-product aesthetics.

How Long Does It Take to 3D Print a Product or a Part?

The lead times depend on several factors, including the part’s size and the printing settings. The quality of the finished product is also a significant factor in determining printing time as higher quality objects take time to produce. The whole process can take a few minutes to several hours or days. Other contributing factors include the speed, resolution, and the number of materials.

Advantages

• Flexible Design

• Rapid Prototyping

• Print on Demand

• Strong and Lightweight Parts

• Waste Reduction

• Cost-Effective

• Ease of Access

Fast Design and Production

• Sustainability / Environmentally Friendly

The Future Ahead

It’s undeniable that the potentials of this technology are endless. As a game-changer for manufacturing, additive manufacturing has changed prototyping and production through cost, lead time, and design freedom.

Although there are still limitations in using this technology, many believe that 3D technology will continue to evolve to overcome manufacturing challenges and provide better, cost-effective solutions.