Things You Need to Know About 3D Printing

3D printing is a revolutionary manufacturing method that creates physical objects from digital models. It’s an extremely versatile process that’s used for a wide range of applications.

Photo by Vanessa Loring,

Whether you’re interested in 3D printing for recreational use or industrial purposes, there are certain things you need to know. Read on to learn more about the process, including which materials are best for beginner users and what you should look for when choosing a 3D printer.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a process where objects are created layer-by-layer using a computer-generated design. This is different from subtractive manufacturing processes, where materials are cut out or hollowed, and additive manufacturing, which creates objects by stacking layers of material.

This technology is especially useful for the creation of complex and bespoke geometric parts, such as aircraft and car components. It also helps manufacturers achieve performance improvements by reducing weight and fuel usage.

Objects can be made from a variety of materials, including plastic, carbon fiber and metal powders. They can also be printed in multiple colors, including metallic and UV-resistant materials.

To print, you must first design your object using CAD software. Once you have a model, you can download it and convert it into a file that your 3D printer will understand. Most 3D modeling software allows you to save your designs in an STL file format. Once your file is in this format, you can start printing. The process of printing your 3D model may take some time, depending on the size and resolution of the part.

The good news is that 3D printing is becoming more and more affordable. You can now find 3D printers under $200, and with a very good performances. The best 3D printers under $200:

  • Creality Ender 3 Neo stands out with its CR-Touch auto-bed leveling sensor, silent 3D printing, and all-metal Bowden extruder.
  • Anycubic Kobra Go is an entry-level 3D printer from the Anycubic Kobra series, and it’s intended for first-time 3D printer users. It has 25-point auto-bed leveling, PEI-coated print bed, and filament run-out detection.
  • Voxelab Aquila X2 has some cool features too: 32-bit silent motherboard, filament auto feeding, and open-source firmware approach.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 3D Printing

3D printing offers a number of advantages over traditional manufacturing methods. These benefits include the ability to create intricate and complex designs, lower costs, environmental protection, and a reduced carbon footprint.

A 3D printer works by heating molten material and depositing it in layers one layer at a time until the desired product is created. The most common materials used in 3D printing are plastics and metals.

These materials are able to produce objects that are light, flexible, and durable. Some can even be printed using a combination of different types of materials, like carbon fiber and plastic powders.

It enables engineers to iterate quickly on prototypes without having to invest in costly tooling. This allows businesses to test and iterate products before going into production, which can help save money and eliminate risks.

While many industries are starting to incorporate 3D printing into their processes, there are some things to keep in mind before implementing this technology into your business. Some of the most important factors to consider include speed, quality, and materials.

Materials Used in 3D Printing

There are a variety of materials used in 3D printing. These include plastics, metals and other composite materials.

  • Nylon is a popular plastic material that can be used for a number of purposes. It has excellent abrasion resistance, high impact strength and is relatively flexible. It is also non-toxic and can be recycled.
  • Polypropylene is another common plastic material that can be used for a variety of applications, including storage and packaging. It is also known for its high chemical resistance and heat resistance.
  • Carbon fiber is a composite material that is used to add strength to plastic parts. It is often combined with other materials, such as nylon and ABS, to produce stronger objects.
  • Resins are also an important part of 3D printing. They allow printers to produce high-detail models with intricate details, such as figurines with painted facial features.

There are several types of resins, including paintable and transparent. These can be used to create a wide variety of products, including small figurines and jewelry.

Safety Considerations with 3D Printing

As the use of 3D printers continues to grow, there are safety considerations that must be taken into account. These include the risk of breathing in harmful chemicals, skin exposure to chemicals and powders (particulates), and the risk of fire and explosion.

Researchers from the Chemical Insights Research Institute, a non-profit arm of Underwriters Laboratories, recently conducted a toxicity study on ABS and PLA filaments to determine how dangerous the fumes emitted by these materials can be. They found that exposure to these fumes could contribute to airway cellular injury and inflammation, even in small quantities.

The researchers suggest that 3D printers that use these types of filaments should be operated from a safe distance, and ventilation and filtration mitigation strategies should be discussed in machine safety guidance to educate users on potential dangers.

Fume hood enclosures can be used to capture these emissions and reduce exposure. They are preferred over open printers due to their ability to reduce airborne particles and VOCs.

Costs Associated With 3D Printing

Whether you’re designing and printing products in-house, or contracting out to 3D printing services, it’s important to understand the costs associated with the process. While the cost of equipment is important, other factors such as material and labor also affect your final product’s price tag.

The most affordable 3D printers are entry-level consumer and hobbyist models, which range from $200 to $500, while professional-grade and enterprise printers can cost as much as $1500. However, these machines are not cheap to operate and require a lot of maintenance, including cleaning and replacement parts.

The main costs associated with 3D printing are material, labor and overhead expenses. While these may not be significant in isolation, they can add up over time.

How to Get Started With 3D Printing

The 3D printing world can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right tools and knowledge, you can become a 3D printing hobbyist or small business user in no time.

One of the most important steps to get started is choosing a 3D printer. There are many different types of printers available, and they range from cheap models to high-end machines.

There are also different materials you can use to create your object. Plastics like PLA and ABS are great beginner-friendly options. These materials are easy to print and are available in a wide variety of colors and styles.

Another important step is choosing the proper filament. There are a number of options available, including carbon-fiber and wood filaments. Some of these materials can damage your extruder, so it’s best to only work with filaments made from a material that is compatible with your printer.

The last step is preparing the model for printing. You’ll need a CAD (computer-aided design) program and slicing software to convert your STL file into G-code, which tells your printer how to build your object.

Final Words: Future Trends in 3D Printing

The use of 3D printing is continuing to grow in many different industries. It is also becoming more affordable than traditional manufacturing methods.

Medical professionals are finding new ways to use 3D printing to help patients recover from illness and injury. For example, surgeons are now able to print a 3D model of a patient before performing surgery on them.

Nonprofits are also using 3D printing to build homes for the homeless. In Mexico, for example, nonprofit New Story built a 3D printed community that can churn out 500-square-foot homes in 24 hours.

The next few years will see the 3D printing industry continue to grow. The market will become more sophisticated as new technologies are developed. These new technologies will include specialized materials, such as biocompatible plastics, and more environmentally friendly processes.

Will Fastiggi
Will Fastiggi

Originally from England, Will is an Upper Primary Coordinator now living in Brazil. He is passionate about making the most of technology to enrich the education of students.

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