Saturday, August 24, 2013

3D Printing

Ever wanted to create something on your PC and actually hold a "hard copy" of it in your hands? 
Well your prayers have just been answered. 3D printing much as it was developed in the 1980's didn't really become famous till early 2000s. 
3D Printing, sometimes called Rapid prototyping or Additive Manufacturing is a manufacturing process that allows computer generated 3D models to be transformed into a physical objects through a layered printing process. 

How does 3D printing work? 

3D models are created from Computer Aided Design or CAD software. There are some free applications such as SketchUp and OpenSCAD. Advanced software for professionals include SolidWorks, AutoCAD, 3ds Max and Maya from Autodesk. Interesting software is Reconstruct Me which uses the Xbox Kinect to scan anything and generate 3D models. It can also be used to scan your face.

3D objects are created from a raw material in either liquid or particle form. The 3D software such as those mentioned above slice the model into digital cross-sections for the 3D printer to successively use as guidelines for printing.

Using the digital model as a guide, a 3D printer deposits microscopically thin layers of the raw material, and gradually builds the model to completion. The amount of detail possible in a 3D print is determined by the thinness of the layers.  The raw materials used are glass, ceramic powder, synthetic resin, and metal.
This process takes anywhere from a few hours to several days depending on printer type, the complexity and size of the model being built. 

Where can you use 3D Printing?

Yes! those shoes were 3D printed. Prices for 3D printers and raw materials have fallen, opening the door to non-industrial applications. 3D printing can now be used to create anything you can model with software. The possibilities are endless.
These can be sculptures, Jewelry, toys, Architectural visualization, Custom implants, and educational models. Shoes, clothes and many more. Geographic or topological models can be produced directly from raw GIS data. 

3D printing was traditionally used for building prototypes in mechanical and automotive models.
The technology has even advanced to the point where it is possible to print small quantities of production quality parts.

As of now internal body organs are being explored.

 3D printer for Home Use

As of now these printers are expensive. I recommend sticking to the online services for now. Top quality 3D printers from industry leading Z Corp still range from $15,000 all the way up to approximately $60,000. However there are a few home printers that cost significantly less ($1500 - $2000) but chances are you'll get better results from online vendors.

Note: One way to drastically reduce the price of your print is to make sure the model has been properly prepared for the 3D printing process. This means making sure that the model will print hollow rather than solid.

Some common online service providers include: i.Materialise , Impression-3D, Sculpteo , Fluid Forms, ProTocuBe, 3D Creation Lab UK, Digital Forming, 3D ProParts  and many more.

Use this link to find a service provider in your country:

Please let us know what you would do with a 3D printer. The possibilities are endless.