What Are 3D Printers, And How Do They Work?

Posted by BloggerOne July 19, 2013 Comments are off 776 views
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A hot topic in technology and engineering at the moment is 3D printing. This is where a printer is used to create a 3D model of something based on a 3D design blueprint created in 3D modeling software. It is very impressive to see machines like this in action, and the results can be quite astonishing, with almost any geometric shape a possibility. But how does this cutting edge technology work, and what is it used for?

Here we take a look at 3D printing and how it is changing the shape of prototyping and design:

How Does a 3D Printer Create a Model?

Standard 2D digital printing involves taking a digital image file and replicating it in ink on a flat piece of paper. In 3D printing the process is actually quite similar. The original digital 3D model, created in computer design software is sliced into thin layers. These layers are then cut from a material, which could be paper, plastic, or even metal, and built up on top of each other by the printer to create the model.

This process can take anything up to a few days if the design is complex and the resolution (which is in this case measured on both the X and Y axis – i.e. both how long and how tall each ‘slice’ needs to be) is high. It is known as an additive process because the resulting model is built by adding one layer at a time.

It creates an exact ‘real life’ replica of the item designed in the 3D modeling software, made of the material the printer uses. This could be the end product, but in most cases will be a prototype or prototype of a part, or another demonstrative or test artifact.

How Is This Technology Used in Industry?

3D printing services are used for all kinds of purposes, in all kinds of industries where products are designed and created. It can be used in engineering to model parts or body designs for cars, aircraft and bridges. It is used in military research and development. It is used in medical research and biotechnology.

It is used in architecture and industrial design, and it is even used in fashion to model things like glasses frames. These are but a few of the practical and industrial uses of 3D printing, and there are now very few areas of design for physical products where a 3D printer doesn’t offer some benefits.

Who knows, in the future we may all have 3D printers in our homes, like the 2D and photo printers we have today, that we can use to make our own objects! It may sound like something from science fiction or a video game, but as the cost goes down and the technology advances, it could only be a matter of time! The first working 3D printer was actually designed, built and showcased in 1986, and the market has come a long way since then, so perhaps in a decade or three there will be one of these impressive pieces of kit in every home!

Featured images:

License: Creative Commons

image source

License: Creative Commons image source

License: Creative Commons image source

Today’s feature contributor, David Volt, is an avid blogger and a technology enthusiast. He works for a magazine printing service provider. He likes to talk about the latest gadgets and spends his free time researching the latest technology.

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